Last updated at 9:17 p.m. on Friday, July 22

The McHugh Creek Fire is now at 815 acres, according to Alaska type-2 incident management team spokesperson Celeste Prescott. She said the fire hasn’t necessarily shrunk, but the fire size has been adjusted with updated information.

“Once the smoke cleared, they were able to get more accurate mapping,” Prescott explained.

Firefighters worked in rain throughout Friday to battle the blaze. In the late-afternoon, crews shifted gears and cleared brush and worked to make existing structures “firewise” in the Rainbow and Potter valleys, according to information provided by Alaska Wildland Fire Information Friday evening.

Motorists planning to travel the Seward Highway, near the blaze, are being asked to proceed with caution. Speed limits in the area are reduced to 35 mph and nearby pullouts are closed, the agency wrote.

Drivers are also being warned of rocks and other debris that were possibly loosed by the heavy rain and fire. Heavy machinery used to fight the wildfire could also be on or near the highway.

Temporary flight restrictions for the area are still in effect

Updated at 2:45 p.m. on Friday, July 22

Fire officials are crediting rain and cooler temperatures along with bolstered firefighting efforts with helping to keep the McHugh Creek Fire at 842 acres, though it is now 7 percent contained.

Crews plan to take advantage of favorable conditions again Friday to continue managing the fire on the ground and from the air. According to a release Friday morning, widespread and heavy rain will help moderate fire behavior and enable Hotshot crews to create containment lines on the west side of the fire.

The speed limit through the fire area has been reduced to 35 mph and drivers are urged to use caution when traveling through the area. All pull-outs along the fire area remain closed.

A total 330 people are currently working to put out the fire, including the Tahoe Hotshots crew from California.

McHugh Creek Fire incident commander Tom Kurth said crews working the fire have sustained little to no injuries and homes in the immediate area remain well protected — two of the main objectives for the Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team.

Thirty pizzas were apparently delivered to the command center Thursday, but officials continue to discourage donations of food and goods to the firefighters.

“We’re fully equipped to take care of our crews, and we’ve done that. While it’s a nice gesture, we’re taking care of everybody,” said Kurth.

While nothing official was announced, he said a community reception might be scheduled once the fire is under control to let the public meet the crews.

Continued rain Friday and into the weekend should greatly reduce the amount of smoke that reaches Anchorage, according to Kurth.

The Alaska Interagency Incident Management team will hold a community meeting tonight at 7 p.m. at South Anchorage High School to update residents on the status of firefighting efforts. KTVA will stream the meeting live at and on our Facebook page.


Updated at 6:30 a.m. on Friday, July 22

The official size of the McHugh Creek Fire is still listed at 842 acres Friday morning. The latest estimates state the fire is 5 percent contained.

Both lanes of the Seward Highway are open Friday, though the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities is still warning drivers to be prepared for delays and possible closures remain in place.


Out near the fire, heavy winds are blowing. Smoke moved into Anchorage and Eagle River Thursday, spurring health officials to advise those with respiratory issues to avoid outdoor activities and physical exertion. For the latest Air Quality Index, visit the municipality’s website or call the air quality hotline at 907-343-4899.

A community meeting is scheduled for Friday, July 22 at 7 p.m., at South Anchorage High School to update residents of the area.

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Updated at 8:53 p.m. on Thursday, July 21

Although the McHugh Creek Fire is still only 5 percent contained at 842 acres, the same as Thursday morning, Alaska Wildland Fire Information said the day’s weather allowed firefighters to be on the offensive.

“Continuous widespread, steady rain starting tomorrow is expected to help crews get the upper hand,” the agency said.

Thursday, crews battling the blaze were working in steep, rocky terrain, full of downed trees, in an attempt to secure the northwest flank of the fire from the McHugh Creek trailhead.

Firefighters also worked to secure neighborhoods near the wildfire.

“Crews have laid an estimated three to four miles of hose, connected to pumps and sprinklers, in the Rainbow Valley subdivision. In addition, firefighters continued efforts to create defensible space around structures in the Rainbow and Potter Valley subdivisions.”

Throughout the night those crews will also patrol the Seward Highway to remove any rocks loosened by the forecasted rain or burning fire debris.

A community meeting is scheduled for Friday, July 22 at 7 p.m., at South Anchorage High School to update residents of the area.


Updated at 10:56 a.m. on Thursday, July 21

Residents closer to the heart of Anchorage woke up to smoke in the air Thursday from the McHugh Creek Fire, burning just south of town.

The latest update from the Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team put the fire at 5 percent containment and 842 acres in size Thursday morning.

After an orientation period to familiarize the hotshot crews who arrived in Anchorage Wednesday to the terrain, operations will consist of mostly ground-based crews.

“Our aviation assets are libel to be grounded in weather like this,” Tom Kurth, incident commander for the McHugh Creek Fire, said at a Thursday morning press briefing. “So, it’ll be mostly ground operations today.”

The arrival of the five additional hotshot crews Wednesday puts the total number of personnel fighting the fire at almost 300.

“That also changes our approach. The last few days, with this hot, dry, windy weather, has expanded this fire, but it also took our initial attack forces off the line directly along that fire’s edge to where they’re trying to suppress it, and [it] put them into a more defensive posture,” said Kurth.

He said crews will shift from a defensive to an offensive approach Thursday, which is expected to be helped by forecasted rains.

“We feel the subdivisions in Rainbow, Potter and the trail up at the north there, in the park itself, are fairly well protected right now,” said Kurth. “I think the picture here is pretty positive.”

A temporary flight restriction is still in place for areas around the fire, so pilots should check before flying. Both lanes of the Seward Highway are open, but debris has been seen falling from the cliffside. All turn-offs from McHugh Creek to Rainbow are closed and drivers are asked to use caution when traveling through the area.


Updated at 8:05 a.m. on Thursday, July 21. 

Fire officials say that just because there’s smoke in town, it doesn’t mean the fire is headed this way. Sarah Saarloos, Department of Forestry public information officer, said the wind is pushing the fire toward the tops of ridges where the it’s more exposed and there’s less fuel for the fire to spread.

An updated map of the size of the fire, released Wendesday, shows the blaze at 842 acres.


Hotshot crews from the Lower 48 arrived Wednesday. About 100 firefighters from California, most of whom have never worked in Alaska before, were briefed on the challenges of firefighting in the Last Frontier. Martin Maricle, a forester with Alaska Fire Support, says these Hotshot crews are trained to handle difficult terrain, much like what they’ll face while battling the McHugh Creek Fire.

Wednesday night, neighbors met at South High School where they heard representatives for the Anchorage Police Department, Division of Forestry (DOF), Alaska Type II Incident Management Team and the National Weather Service speak about what was being done to fight the fire, protect homes and prepare for a possible evacuation.

DOF incident commander Tom Kurth said information officers and police would be available in the Potter Valley and Rainbow Valley neighborhoods to answer questions and assist residents with preparing for an evacuation.

APD Acting Deputy Chief Bill Miller said if an evacuation of residents above Potter Marsh became necessary, the Seward Highway would be shut down to allow residents to leave quickly and leave access open for fire personnel.

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