Evacuations near Campbell Creek Science Center canceled, wildland fire partially contained
A rapidly moving wildland fire in Anchorage forced multiple evacuations Tuesday near the Campbell Creek Science Center.
In the final update of the evening around 9:30 p.m., Alaska Division of Forestry reported the fire was 25 acres and 30% contained. Anchorage municipal manager Bill Falsey said officials were winding down the emergency operations center, saying they were in a good spot and that people could sleep well Tuesday night.
Falsey said the city was moving command operations to the DOF for the rest of the incident. Stephanie Bishop with DOF stated crews would continue to establish hose lines and complete grid searches for spot fires. Bishop echoed earlier messages from Falsey and Anchorage Fire Department Chief Jodie Hettrick that now is not the time for fireworks or camp fires.
"Please do whatever you can to do any type of defensible space around your home. Please do whatever you can to prevent any type of fires," Bishop said.
Hettrick said it was an Anchorage Police Department officer who initially called the fire in. She said emergency responders were able to act quickly to arrive at the scene and get the fire under control.
The closest the fire came to homes was about half a mile away, Hettrick said.
All roads were open as of 9:30 p.m., however drivers should expect delays in the area and public safety activity throughout the night and over the next couple of days.
All trails in the area remained closed to give firefighters space to work the fire, including the following trailheads:
- MLK Jr.
- Lake Otis at Campbell Creek
People are also asked to avoid Campbell Creek Trail east of Lake Otis and Far North Bicentennial Park.
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During a news conference just before 8 p.m., Chief Hettrick stated the fire was 30% contained. Anchorage municipal manager Bill Falsey said there were 50 AFD firefighters, 25 DOF personnel and 30 APD officers that responded to the fire.
"This is Fourth of July weekend. This is not the weekend to launch fireworks," Falsey said. "We're gonna ask everyone to celebrate their freedom with sprinklers instead."
Falsey urged residents to visit the municipality's Firewise website for tips on how to safeguard their property.
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As of 7:09 p.m., the Alaska Division of Forestry said the 15-acre fire was 20% contained.
According to Anchorage police, evacuation orders have been lifted though road closures continued in the area just after 7 p.m. Residents in the area couldn't access their homes until the roads reopened. Policed stated the closures would remain in effect for two to eight hours.
After issuing the order, 14 children and 21 adults were evacuated using the People Mover bus system to Wendler Middle School, located at 2905 Lake Otis Parkway, which has opened as an evacuation center for those who are displaced. As of the news conference, Falsey said all of those people were able to go back to their original locations.
People who need a place to go can go to Wendler Middle School, where a Alaska Red Cross trailer has been deployed to provide essential services.
Candis Olmstead, public affairs director for the Alaska National Guard, said two Alaska Army National Guard UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters departed from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson at between 6 and 6:30 p.m. to assist with the firefighting effort. The aircraft were doing water drops in response to the fire.
A 7 p.m. release from police stated there were no injuries or structural damage related to the wildland fire.
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Just after 4:30 p.m. Anchorage Police Department and Anchorage Fire Department responded to two fires near Doctor MLK Jr. Avenue and Elmore Road.
The fire grew and spread to the 46th Avenue and Piper Street area. Police urged drivers to avoid the area as the fire moved southeast, which caused the evacuation of the Campbell Creek Science Center.
Lake Otis Parkway and 64th Avenue were shut down extending to East Dowling Road.
Other evacuations included the Manoog's Isle Trailer Park at Lake Otis Parkway and East Dowling Road, 50th Avenue and Folker Street were evacuated due to the 15-acre wildland fire.
AFD says all communication will be handled by the Anchorage Police Department.
Editor's note: AFD Fire Chief Jodie Hettrick initially stated the fire was 80% contained. The Alaska Division of Forestry stated that it is 80% contained by retardant, or that retardant had been placed around 80% of the fire, which the division doesn't count as containment.
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