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Wildfire inches toward Beluga, threatens power company facilities

By KTVA Alaska Photojournalist: Jacob Curtis - 10:43 PM May 21, 2014

The concern has shifted from Tyonek, to Beluga, according to state officials.

TYONEK –

Click here for the updated version of this story.

As a wildfire burns along the northwest side of Cook Inlet, officials say the concern has shifted from Tyonek to Beluga.

Fire crews are now working to protect the lives and property of Beluga residents and the infrastructure of the area.

So far, the fire has burned down two outhouses and a cabin. It’s believed to have started after a downed tree hit a power line, according to the state’s Division of Forestry.

State officials fear if  the fire continues moving west, it could reach Chugach Electric and Enstar power facilities in Beluga.

A plume of smoke hovering above 1,500 acres of singed Southcentral Alaska is actually a sign the worst of the blaze is over for the village of Tyonek. But as the wildfire inches west, Beluga residents and power companies with facilites in Beluga are on standby.

“The Beluga power plant on a daily basis accounts for half of the power we provide customers in the course of a day,” said Phil Steyer with Chugach Electric Association.

That plant powering Chugach Electric’s customers throughout Alaska sits less than five miles away from the fire being fueled by changing winds.

Nonetheless, Steyer said Chugach customers have nothing to worry about.

“We’ve had no outages as of yet from the fires and we’ve not adjusted operations yet,” Steyer said.

Enstar also has facilites in Beluga that are less than four miles away from where the fire currently sits, yet company officials say they aren’t concerned with this fire.

“From the point where the fire is to where our facilities are, there’s a lot of clearing, some swamp land, so again, no immediate threat,” John Sims with Enstar said.

Nearly 100 firefighters from across Alaska have been working nonstop since Monday to keep that threat contained with the help of tankers, helicopters and bulldozers, among other things.

Residents of Tyonek were given the OK to return to their homes and state officials are not evacuating Beluga right now. However, they’re asking that residents of both Tyonek and Beluga remain vigilant and to be ready to move if the fire gets closer to either area.

Click here for more information on the Funny River and Dalton River Crossing fires.

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