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Cooler weather aids firefighters’ progress on Denali Borough wildfire that prompted evacuation alerts

A brush truck from the Anderson Volunteer Fire Department is parked along Kobe Ag Road near the Kobe Fire on Friday morning, July 12, 2019 as members of the White Mountain Type 2 Initial Attack Crew gear up to head to the fire. (Photo courtesy Chief Scott Thompson/Anderson Volunteer Fire Department)

The growth of a wildfire in the Denali Borough near the city of Anderson appears to be subdued by cool, wet weather and efforts by firefighters to contain the blaze, which had forced the evacuation of two subdivisions before alert levels were stepped down Saturday, officials said.

The fire swelled to 1,200 acres from 600 overnight Thursday though moisture and cooler weather helped temper activity to creeping and smoldering, according to an Alaska Division of Forestry update Friday. Multiple residences were threatened Thursday night but as of Friday morning there were no reports of homes burning and only one outbuilding confirmed lost. Officials say the fire didn’t show signs of growth Friday, and no injuries have been reported.

The city remained on alert Friday morning, but some much-needed precipitation had local authorities breathing a sigh of relief.

“We’re just very thankful for the rain over the night,” said Denali Borough Mayor Clay Walker.

Just two people showed up at an evacuation center in Nenana, Walker said Friday. The shelter was closed down on Friday morning, according to Red Cross of Alaska. A shelter at the Tri-Valley school, managed by Healy volunteers, remains open, according to the Denali Borough.

The fire’s cause — which remains under investigation — wasn’t immediately attributed to lightning, but storms moved through the area Thursday night.

More than 24,000 lightning strikes were recorded over Alaska and the Yukon from Thursday morning through Friday morning, with most of those strikes over the southern and eastern Interior of Alaska, according to the National Weather Service in Fairbanks.

This far exceeds the total number of lightning strikes that have occurred in a 24-hour period in previous years across Alaska, the agency said. “Although records for lightning are not well documented, forecasters do not recall any days exceeding 15,000 strikes in previous years.”

Anderson, with about 275 residents, is in Interior Alaska about 55 miles southwest of Fairbanks.

As of Saturday afternoon, residents in the Kobe Ag and Anderson subdivisions near Mile 275 of the Parks Highway — who were previously ordered to evacuate — were under a Level 1 evacuation alert, meaning that residents should be aware of the threat and prepare in case an evacuation is necessary. The city of Anderson and surrounding areas was no longer under any kind of evacuation alert.

A call center has been set up at the Denali Borough at 907-683-1330.

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