Crews turn attention to hotspots as McHugh Fire slows down
Last updated at 11:05 a.m. on Tuesday, July 26
Fire officials in Anchorage said hotspots were detected on the 778-acre McHugh Fire on Monday during a helicopter flight equipped with an infrared camera.
In a Tuesday morning release from Alaska Wildland Fire Information, the agency said firefighters will turn their focus to the hotspots as the fire slows down. Equipment used to protect structures in Potter and Rainbow valleys was taken down Monday. The remaining fire crews will reinforce containment lines to a width of 300 feet where officials say it is “practical and safe to do so.”
An open house is scheduled for 6 p.m. Wednesday at Goldenview Middle School for the public.
In the meantime, state park officials have opened the Rabbit Creek Trail to Rabbit Lake in Chugach State Park. The trails and adjacent parklands between the Potter Creek and Rainbow trailheads, including all of the McHugh Creek and Rainbow Creek drainages, remain closed. Managers are working with state park officials to reopen the trails in the future, the release stated.
Speed restrictions in the area are still in effect, though the section of the Seward Highway affected has been shortened to mile 110 to 112. Pull offs outside that area are now open, according to the release.
The temporary flight restrictions are still in place, and the release reminded people that applies to drones as well.
Updated at 8:30 p.m. on Monday, July 25
Lower 48 Hotshot crews are expected to head out of Alaska Tuesday, to fight higher priority wildfires in California, after progress was made on the McHugh Fire over the weekend, incident commander Tom Kurth said during a Monday morning press briefing.
According to Kurth, the fire burning just south of Anchorage is 35 percent contained and 65 percent confined. The size of the fire is still estimated at 778 acres thanks to improved mapping, Alaska Wildlife Fire Information wrote in an online update.
The Tahoe Hotshot crews will get their gear dried out and eat a warm meal before heading to the West Coast at 9 a.m. Tuesday. Roughly 150 firefighters will remain in Alaska to continue to work the McHugh Fire, Kurth explained.
Residents in the Rainbow and Potter valleys can expect firefighter activity in their neighborhoods Monday, as crews work to dismantle temporary fire prevention infrastructure.
“It is our belief we have it contained in an area that won’t move,” Kurth said. He added that keeping the public safe and comfortable is a top priority for crews.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, according to Kurth.
Popular recreation areas in the area of Chugach State Park near the blaze are still closed — including the Turnagain Arm, McHugh Creek and Rainbow Creek trails, as well as the McHugh Creek wayside, Beluga Point pull out, and Rainbow trailhead. A temporary flight restriction for the area is still in place.
Forester John See also said the burn ban for the Anchorage area has been lifted, although if the region sees potentially dangerous weather conditions, again, the closure could be reinstated.
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