Rainy Pass wildfire causes evacuations of lodge on Iditarod Trail
A Rainy Pass wildfire prompted evacuations overnight for more than two dozen people from a famous lodge.
The fire was reported around 8 p.m. Tuesday after a lightning strike near Rainy Pass Lodge, a checkpoint along the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry.
A wall of smoke can be seen in photos from DOF air attack crews. An air attack plane from Mat-Su Area Forestry in Palmer responded to the fire first. Mat-Su crews responding Tuesday night reported the fire at three to five acres in size, with the fire burning about a half mile away from the lodge's runway.
DOF stated three firefighters from Mat-Su were flown in by helicopter Tuesday evening, working late into the night to protect the lodge and a fuel cache at the end of the runway. As the fire inched its way toward the lodge, fire crews made the call to evacuate.
Helicopters from the Alaska National Guard came in to help evacuate 26 employees and guests, as well as released 20 horses, DOF said. According to the division's online post, the horses were safe on the property.
All people airlifted from the fire were taken to Anchorage. The Red Cross opened a shelter following the evacuation announcement Tuesday. Volunteers with Red Cross set up the shelter at the American Red Cross of Alaska Region Headquarters, located at 235 E. 8th Ave. They were able to provide support, comfort, meals and a safe place for 12 people evacuated from the fire.
As of Wednesday morning, the fire has grown to 120 acres and is getting some light rain, DOF stated.
A 14-person helitack group was on their way to the fire Wednesday, while a group of eight smokejumpers are standing by in McGrath waiting for better weather to be flown into the fire. Another Mat-Su hand crew was also waiting to be transported to the fire. Air tankers were requested too, out of Palmer and Fairbanks, but were not able to reach the fire due to the weather conditions, fire officials said.
In addition to the lodge, there are 10 other cabins and buildings on site. The division's release stated Rainy Pass Lodge is Alaska's oldest hunting lodge, founded in 1937 and located at Mile 153 of the 1,000-mile Iditarod Trail.
Correction: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated it was a Blackhawk helicopter that aided in the evacuation. It has been edited to clarify that multiple helicopters were used in the evacuation.
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