Sept. 8 - 12:34 p.m.

Burn suspensions lifted in Matanuska-Susitna Borough

As of 12 p.m. Sunday, open debris burning and the use of burn barrels have been allowed with a permit from the Division of Forestry.

DOF wrote in an update posted on AK Fire Info:

Due to significant rainfall yesterday and last night, the burn permit suspension that has been in effect for the Matanuska-Susitina Valley will be lifted at noon today, Sunday, September 8. 

Additionally, burn permits are required through the end of the month for any open debris burning and use of burn barrels across the state.

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Sept. 3 - 7:44 p.m.

Burn closure in Matanuska-Susitna Borough to be lifted

An emergency burn closure for the Kenai Peninsula and Matanuska-Susitna boroughs is being lifted this week, officials with the Alaska Division of Forestry said.

The closure went into effect about two weeks ago, prohibiting all open burning, including campfires and charcoal grills, on state, private and municipal lands. At 8 a.m. Wednesday, it will be rescinded.

Sept. 3 - 12:11 p.m.

Disaster recovery grants available for Matanuska-Susitna and Kenai Peninsula residents

Alaskans in the Matanuska-Susitna and Kenai Peninsula boroughs may be eligible for disaster recovery grants for wildfire damages to their homes and other property. 

The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs announced the grants in a press release Friday. Gov. Mike Dunleavy declared a state disaster on Aug. 23 allowing the individual and public assistance programs to go in effect. 

There are three types of assistance available for homeowners, renters and organizations.

READ MORE: Disaster assistance available for Alaskans affected by wildfires 

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Sept. 3 - 9:35 a.m.

Willow school bus stops resume

A Tuesday morning update from the Northern Rockies Incident Management Team confirmed all normal school bus stops are resuming in the Willow area. 

Several agencies are still providing information on the McKinley Fire, a full list is available on AK Fire Info. Mat-Su residents can apply for disaster assistance beginning 9 a.m. on Sept. 4 at the Willow United Methodist Church and the Upper Susitna Community Center.

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Sept. 2 - 7:42 p.m.

McKinley Fire now 95% contained, all power restored

Firefighters’ work has brought the containment level to 95%  on the McKinley Fire.

AK Fire info said Monday, the interior contains trees that fell randomly during and after the fire in “jackpot piles” that are lying on hot ash pits and could cause potential flare-ups.

Recent rain has not been enough to combat the record-setting dry duff layer and fire is still carrying on the forest floor.  Crews are working cautiously to mop up deep ash pits and avoid falling trees.

On Monday at 7:00 a.m. the Northern Rockies Interagency Incident Management Team 7 took command of the fire, per AK Fire Info.  

Matanuska Electric Association says all power is restored now to the area and any residents experiencing issues should call them directly. 

Since fire progress is going well, on Tuesday, Sept. 3, all normal school bus stops will resume in the Willow area.

Progress is being made on other fires too.

The Deshka Landing Fire remains at 95% contained. AK Fire Info said once firefighters get closer to containment they will demobilize crews.

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Aug. 31 - 10:57 a.m.

Deshka Landing Fire now 95% contained

An updated posted on AK Fire Info reads:

Cool and damp weather with scattered showers has now moved into the area, but as of Sunday morning, the rainfall has not been sufficient to completely put out all remaining fire. The fire has not grown in size the past week and is now [95%] contained.

According to the update, 217 personnel are working on the fire that is estimated at 1,318 acres. 

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Aug. 31 - 9:36 p.m.

McKinley Fire now 91% contained, Team Rubicon

The Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team's lead information officer Kale Casey says the McKinley fire is now 91% contained. Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Stephanie Bishop says Team Rubicon will be helping agencies and residents with some recovery efforts. For help, call Team Rubicon at 360-975-7944 or stop by the Caswell Fire Station 13-1.

Watch full update: 

 
User: Alaska DNR- Division of Forestry (DOF) To: link

 

 

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Aug. 31 - 5:59 p.m.

Power back for many, first measurable August rain

Updated Evacuation Map for McKinley Fire 8-31-19 “Level 1 – Ready” for milepost 81.5 to 93.

 In an update from AK Fire Info said rain fell last night, the only measurable rain in the month of August. Unfortunately, this rain only cools the ground surface. With such dry conditions, heat exists very deep in the ground which is unaffected by light rain.

Yesterday the Matanuska Electric Association reenergized all power lines in the fire area. The only people without power have damaged electrical meters.

Unfortunately, AK Fire Info says this rain only cools the ground surface. With such dry conditions, heat exists very deep in the ground which is unaffected by light rain.

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Aug. 30 - 4:04 p.m.

Clearing power line easements

Matanuska Electric Association employees and fire crews are continuing to work on restoring power in the areas impacted by the McKinley Fire.

Here's the latest on their efforts, according to an updated post on AK Fire Info:

Matanuska Electric Association works with Snake River Valley Crew #3 on the McKinley fire to clear downed trees near the Parks Highway in Willow. The fire destroyed poles and lines throughout the burned area. Restoring power to residences is a priority. However it is an arduous process as the downed trees and poles are on pockets of heat. Firefighters have to put out the heat before building piles so they do not reignite while avoiding ash pits and falling trees. MEA and fire crews worked to develop tactics so they could both effectively do their jobs and help residents return to their normal lives.

It should be noted fire crews usually wear their packs, “line gear” when working. Due to the amount of unusually deep ash pits and hazard trees crews are not wearing packs when they are close to their trucks and escape routes so they can remain agile in poor footing near fire weakened trees.

Firefighters have been helping Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) restore power and remove fire-damaged trees near power lines. They have made major progress this week are very close to having power fully restored.

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Aug. 30 - 3 p.m.

Deshka Landing Fire now 80% contained

Fire officials say that the Deshka Landing Fire is now 80% contained, but there is still a lot of work needed to be done to get the fire under control.

Department of Natural Resources Agency Administrator Ed Soto (left) and visiting Agency Administrator Tim Sexton of Idaho (center) speak with Prineville Hotshots Superintendent Eric Miller at the Deshka Landing Fire. (Photo: Mike McMillan – DNR)

 

"Fireline construction is nearly completed, with mop-up operations, patrolling and monitoring ongoing on the fire," an update posted to AK Fire Info says. "As dry conditions continue and the fire has yet to be fully contained and controlled, pumps and infrastructure placed around structures during the past several operational periods will remain in place. Crews are beginning to remove non-essential supplies off the fire line."

Parts of the fire continue to smolder. Fire officials say as pockets of unburned fuel burn, smoke could be visible to the public for the next several months.

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Aug. 30 - 2 p.m.

Burn closure for Mat-Su and Kenai Peninsula boroughs amended

A new update from the Alaska Division of Forestry says an emergency burn closure prohibiting all open burning and the use of charcoal grills in the Kenai Peninsula and Matanuska-Susitna boroughs has been amended to allow campfires in firefighting camps.

The order, which took effect on Aug. 21, was amended to read:

Warming and cooking campfires as defined under 11 AAC 95.412 – 11 AAC 95.495 that are established in wildland fire incident command posts and authorized spike camps that are in use by emergency responders and crews and meet the following conditions are excepted from this closure:

  • less than three feet in diameter and two feet in flame height;
  • consist of only non-treated wood and/or paper debris;
  • are directly supervised at all times;
  • are fully extinguished and cold to the touch when not in use.

According to DOF, the order was amended to fix a technical point concerning firefighters' use of fire for cooking and warming while on the job.

"Many firefighters staying in fire camps must cook their own food and use small cooking fires for that purpose," DOF said.

Read the full amended burn closure online.

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Aug. 30 - 1 p.m.

Updates on assistance and donation information

Fire officials have released new information on how to apply for disaster assistance and what supplies can be donated to help those impacted by the McKinley Fire.

According to an update posted on AK Fire Info, people with damaged homes and personal property can apply for state disaster assistance at a designated assistance center from Sept. 4 through 18. Locations have yet to be determined; however, they will be near Talkeetna and Willow. The state's website will have the latest information.

Those looking to donate can do so in a variety of ways.

"We appreciate the generous support of the community! Firefighter and public safety are our number one priority and our wildland fire crews are well equipped and cared for," the update said.

To show support, you can make financial donations to your local fire department, search and rescue unit, the Wildland Firefighter Foundation or the American Red Cross. A full list of things you can and can't donate can be found online.

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Aug. 30 - 11:13 a.m.

WATCH: What firefighters are doing to fight McKinley Fire

The Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team's lead information officer Kale Casey, Crew Boss Tom Smith and other fire officials explain mop up and fireline hazards.

 

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Aug. 30 - 10:07 a.m.

Ash pits and falling trees

Fire officials say crews are staying vigilant for ash pits and falling trees in the McKinley Fire.

McKinley Fire (Photo: AK Fire Info)

 

Here's the latest update posted to AK Fire Info:

Firefighters have been helping Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) restore power and remove fire-damaged trees near power lines. They have made major progress this week are very close to having power fully restored.

Slow, tedious mop up work continues as firefighters search for hot spots and extinguish them. They have been mopping up along the fire perimeter, around structures, and along utility corridors. To find remaining hot spots they typically run their bare hands through the ash but also use hand held infrared sensors and infrared cameras on a drones.

Because fire damaged trees can fall unexpectedly on people, structures, roads or powerlines, firefighters have been removing these trees. Many trees remain standing throughout the fire area making it a dangerous place. Ash pits are deep holes filled with hot ash, and they exist throughout the area. These ash pits are hard to see and have caused burns on firefighters and the public when they accidently step into one.

A “Level 2 – Set” evacuation level exists between milepost 81.5 and 92. A “Level 1 – Ready” evacuation level exists between mileposts 79 and 81.5. Crews have used the Sheep Creek Lodge as a staging area for equipment and supplies. With the lodge reopening on Saturday, the staging area will move to a gravel pit across the street.

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Aug. 30 - 9 a.m.

McKinley Fire: Community meeting scheduled

Fire officials are hosting a community meeting at Willow Elementary School on Sunday, Sept. 1, starting at 3 p.m. for those wanting the latest information on the McKinley Fire.

McKinley Fire community meeting (Photo: AK Fire Info)

 

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Aug. 29 - 10:30 p.m.

Updated McKinley Fire map

Here is an updated fire evacuation map of the McKinley Fire. It is currently around 3,316 acres.

McKinley Fire evacuation map as of Aug. 29, 2019 (Photo: AK Fire Info)

 

AK Fire Info)___   

Aug. 29 - 10:15 p.m.

McKinley Fire 78% contained

Fire officials say the McKinley Fire is now 78% contained.

Here's what firefighters are doing, according to a post on AK Fire Info:

Firefighters continue to increase containment. They have been gridding and cold trailing along the fire perimeter which means they search for heat by lining up some distance into burned areas and running their bare hands through the ash. A drone with an infrared camera has assisted firefighters by finding hot spots along the utility corridor and other areas.

Crews have been working closely with the Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) moving south along the Parks Highway. They have been removing fire-damaged trees and repairing power lines to restore electricity as quickly as possible. Each day MEA has restored power to more homes. Excavators, feller bunchers and crews have been removing hazard trees near structures and homes. A feller buncher is an excavator with an attachment that can cut, lift and stack trees.

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Aug. 29 - 9:42 p.m.

Sheep Creek Lodge owners who evacuated leave doors open for firefighters

It started as a typical busy Saturday at the Sheep Creek Lodge nearly two weeks ago.

Then they started to hear of a wildfire burning to the North.

READ MORE: Sheep Creek Lodge owners who evacuated leave doors open for firefighters 

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Aug. 29 - 4:57 p.m.

Air quality to improve for Labor Day weekend

Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer as many gear up to settle into school and await the arrival of fall.

For many, it's one last big vacation of the year thanks to the long weekend and continued summer-like weather. In Alaska, the temperatures are already beginning to vary greatly following what is one of the warmest summers on record.

Accompanying this summer were numerous wildfires that scorched The Last Frontier, which led to air quality advisories for many areas through the summer. But as summer unofficially comes to an end, many may find that they are beginning to breathe cleaner air.

If you're tired of the smoke and the health issues it causes, there's good news in the forecast.

READ MORE: Air quality to improve for Labor Day weekend 

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Aug. 29 - 6:08 p.m.

Red Cross closing Menard sports center shelter

The Red Cross of Alaska is closing the emergency shelter at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center, which has been helping those who lost their homes in the McKinley Fire.

The shelter, located at 1001 S Clapp St. in Wasilla, will be closing at 12 p.m. Friday. A release from the organization says residents have been able to either return home or make arrangements for long-term housing.

"The Red Cross will continue to provide emergency relief supplies, health and mental health services, and recovery casework and planning services across the affected area in the coming days," the release states.

Those who lost their homes in the fire can connect with the Red Cross to create recovery plans and find additional help. Caseworkers will be available through Saturday, Aug. 31, to provide those planning services at the following locations:

  • Upper Susitna Senior Center (16463 Helena Drive, Talkeetna) from 12 p.m. - 6 p.m.
  • Curtis D Menard Memorial Sports Center (1001 S Clapp St, Wasilla) from 10 a.m. - 6 p.m.

Planning services will also be available in those locations by appointment only from Sunday, Sept 1 through Tuesday, Sept. 3. To schedule an appointment, call 907-764-2407.

Emergency relief supplies will also be distributed at the following locations until Saturday, Aug. 31:

  • Upper Susitna Senior Center (16463 Helena Drive, Talkeetna) from 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
  • Sheep Creek Lodge (59429 S Parks Hwy, Willow) from 12 p.m. – 7 p.m.
  • Curtis D Menard Memorial Sports Center (1001 S Clapp St, Wasilla) from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m.

The Sheep Creek Lodge will continue handing out supplies from Sunday, Sept 1 through Tuesday, Sept. 3. from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m.

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Aug. 29 - 12:48 p.m.

Mitigation of hazardous trees along roads

Firefighters are using heavy equipment to clear easements along the road of downed trees and debris in McKinley Fire areas, an update posted to AK Fire Info says.

"Operators are using tracked harvesters and excavators as well as water trucks to spray piles for potential heat along the Parks Highway and roads in the fire area." the post says. "The completed log piles are available for anyone to cut, however we ask that no cutting be done in areas where firefighters are still working."

Here's a video showing tracked harvesters, excavators and water tenders working along the roadways:

 

"Hazard tree removal is necessary because trees in the burned area can fall unexpectedly on people, structures, roads or power lines," the post says. "Their roots are shallow and have been weakened by the fire. Firefighters have been falling these trees using heavy equipment as much as possible."

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Aug. 29 - 10:41 a.m.

WATCH: Update on the McKinley Fire

Here's the latest update from fire officials on the McKinley Fire.

 
User: Matanuska-Susitna Borough To: link

 

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Aug. 29 - 10:19 a.m.

Deshka Landing Fire 75% contained

Three quarters of the Deshka Landing Fire is contained, according to fire officials, and crews are working toward full containment.

McKenzie River Type 2 Initial Attack Crewmembers. (Photo: Mike McMillan – DNR)

 

An updated posted on AK Fire Info reads:

Dry conditions are making fires extremely resistant to control. The deep organic material in some areas continues to smolder making mop up more difficult. However, resources assigned to the fire continue working hard toward 100 percent containment and control. Firefighters will patrolling and monitoring the entire fire perimeter for the next few days.

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Aug. 29 - 5:24 a.m.

McKinley Fire 71% contained

Crews have contained 71% of the McKinley Fire, according to a Wednesday night update from the Division of Forestry.

 
User: Alaska DNR- Division of Forestry (DOF) To: link

 

The Parks Highway is still open with a 45 mph speed limit, but officials are reminding drivers to watch their speeds, for the safety of firefighters.

Ash pits and falling trees are also causing safety concerns both for those fighting the fire and the public.

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Aug. 28 - 8:40 p.m.

Willow transfer stations expand to take tons of wildfire debris for free

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough is getting ready for mountains of wildfire garbage to soon descend on their relatively small transfer stations.

"Fires cause an enormous amount of debris." Says Borough Director of Public Works, Terry Dolan. "So that debris for most people has to be removed so that they have space to set up their new living quarters, rebuild their homes and their lives."

To help with that, the borough is expanding the hours of the Willow Transfer Station by two days, and waving the fee for people dropping off fire debris. Dolan says a commercial property should still expect to pay the normal fee.

READ MORE: Willow transfer stations expand to take tons of wildfire debris for free 

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Aug. 28 - 7:26 p.m.

Alaska State Fair Train service is a go for Labor Day Weekend

The Alaska Railroad Corporation says State Fair Trains will operate as scheduled through the holiday weekend.

Alaska Railroad said in a release Wednesday it canceled the trains last weekend because of a concern over wildfire impacts and weather.

A popular attraction for many, the Fair Trains are sold out on all scheduled departures, including 12:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

READ MORE: Alaska State Fair train service a go for Labor Day Weekend

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Aug. 28 - 10:42 a.m.

Alaska Organized Militia comes together to respond to wildfires

When it comes to natural disasters and emergencies across the state, there are lesser-known organizations located deep within the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs that play major roles: the Alaska State Defense Force and Alaska Naval Militia.

According to Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead with the Alaska National Guard, the Naval Militia are personnel in the Navy reserves that can be activated to support the state in times of dire need.

READ MORE: Inside the Gates: Alaska Organized Militia comes together to respond to wildfires 

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Aug. 28 - 9:34 a.m.

Firefighters continue work on Deshka Landing Fire

The Deshka Landing Fire is 70% contained and firefighters are continuing to mop up any heat sources near the fire's edge. 

An update posted on AK Fire Info reads:

Today, firefighters will be using the information gathered overnight to extinguish those hot areas that may have potential to spread the fire further.  The fire-burned area remains extremely dry and the deep organic material in some areas continues to smolder. Fire crews will continue patrolling and monitoring the entire fire perimeter for the next few days. Isolated sources of smoke may be observed until a season-ending event provides enough moisture to completely extinguish the fire.

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Aug. 28 - 8:45 a.m.

Fire crews meet with crisis response dogs

National Crisis Response Canines visited firefighters working the McKinley Fire Wednesday.

 
User: Alaska DNR- Division of Forestry (DOF) To: link

 

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Aug. 28 - 6:11 a.m.

McKinely Fire 3,316 acres and 70% contained, double fines enforced

Speeding fines have been doubled on Parks Highway to protect crews working in the McKinley Fire area. The posted speed limit on the highway through the burned area is 45 mph.

Watch the full overnight update from the Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team:

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Aug. 27 - 7 p.m.

Part of Nancy Lake State Recreation Area reopens to public

An update from the Alaska Division of Forestry says that part of the Nancy Lake State Recreation area has been reopened to the public.

Alaska Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation Director Ricky Gease made the announcement Tuesday. The decision to reopen part of the area was made because of good progress in containing the Deshka Landing Fire.

A map showing the amended closure of the Nancy Lake State Recreation Area effective Tuesday, August 27, 2019. (Photo: AK Fire Info)

"Most of the eastern part of the state recreation area has been opened for recreational activity," an online post on AK Fire Info says. "The Nancy Lake Parkway will remain closed at the Rhein Lake Public Use Cabin at approximately milepost 5 to the end of the road due to firefighting activity in the area. The South Rolly Lake Campground, as well as South Rolly Lake, North Rolly Lake and the northern half of Red Shirt Lake will remain closed until further notice."

The public order for the amended closure boundaries can be found online.

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Aug. 27 - 6:04 p.m.

Multiple organizations offer aid to McKinley Fire victims in need

As the McKinley Fire starts to enter the recovery stage many people are wondering how they can help. The one thing agencies that assist fire victims say they need most of all — cash.

The Red Cross, Salvation Army and United Way of Mat-Su can all accept donations online. People who want to drop off cash or a check can call their offices to arrange that.

READ MORE: Multiple organizations offer aid to McKinley Fire victims in need 

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Aug. 27 - 3:27 p.m.

Willow students back in school after McKinley Fire

Kids in the five northern Mat-Su schools are settling into the classroom again after a week off during the McKinley Fire.

“It’s so good to see you. We’re so excited for a great week,” said Willow Elementary Principal Jennifer Rinaldi as kids got off the bus.

Teachers chalked messages on the sidewalks for the students’ return Tuesday morning.

The kids are still learning the routine; they only had two days of school before the McKinley Fire started along the Parks Highway, about 20 miles north of their school.

READ MORE: Willow students back in school after McKinley Fire 

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Aug. 27 - 2:14 p.m.

Mat-Su Borough burn closure includes large parts of Denali and Glenn highways

A recent post on AK Fire Info says hunters and campers should be aware that large parts of the Denali and Glenn highways are under a borough-wide burn closure prohibiting all open burning, including campfires and the use of charcoal grills.

A map showing the boundaries of the emergency burn closure in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough (Photo: AK Fire Info)

Here is the post, in part:

The portion of the Denali Highway that is within the Mat-Su Borough runs from Seattle Creek at approximately milepost 112 to just east of the Maclaren River at approximately milepost 41. The portion of the Glenn Highway that is within the Mat-Su Borough ends at approximately Mile 137. However, part of Lake Louise Road (starting at milepost 15) and Lake Louise itself are also within the borough boundaries (see attached map). Hunters need to check their locations and be conscious of where they are in relation to borough boundaries.

The Alaska Division of Forestry issued the emergency burn closure on August 21. The closure applies to all types of burning, including campfires and the use of charcoal grills, on state, private, municipal and borough lands in the closure areas. The closure includes campfires in established fire pits or fire rings in designated campgrounds.

Devices that can be turned on and off — such as gas and pellet grills and backpacking or camp stoves that use fuel or compressed fuel canisters — are still allowed, though users are urged to be cautious with them as well. The emergency burn closure will remain in effect until conditions moderate.

 

The Alaska Division of Forestry said there have been several burn closure violations reported in the Mat-Su.

 
User: Alaska DNR- Division of Forestry (DOF) To: link

"This is a plea from the Alaska Division of Forestry to the public to please adhere to the burn closure," officials posted to Facebook. "Our firefighters have their hands full working to suppress and contain devastating wildfires in both the Mat-Su Valley and Kenai Peninsula. Any new fires will make that job even tougher and could put the public and firefighters at risk."

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Aug. 27 - 2:08 p.m.

Residents return to smoldering neighborhood after McKinley Fire

It was the first time seeing her home in over a week. Patricia Carrick knew from a photo shared online that the cabin she built in 2000 had been spared from the fire, but seeing it with her own eyes was still emotional.

"We were looking around going 'wow, wow'" she said. "It's still here."

Her cabin is unscathed but surrounded by charred trees in a wooded lot near mile 91 of the Parks Highway. Some of her neighbors' homes were reduced to ashes.

"You can't help but feel grief," she said.

Smoke and occasional flames still flare up in the neighborhood, but residents here have gone from a "Level 3 - Go" status to a "Level 2 - Set," meaning they can return to their homes, but should be ready to leave at short notice.

Firefighters are still working in the area, enforcing the line by cutting trees and spraying down hot spots.

READ MORE: Residents return to smoldering neighborhood after McKinley Fire 

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Aug. 27 - 12:15 p.m.

Community Meeting: McKinley Fire update scheduled for Wednesday night

Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team is hosting a community meeting for the McKinley Fire at the Upper Susitna Senior Center on Wednesday, Aug. 28 starting at 6:30 p.m.

McKinley Fire community meeting scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 28, 2019 at 6:30 p.m. (Photo: AK Fire Info)

 

Incident Commander Norm McDonald and guest speakers will talk about the status of the fire, weather and evacuations. Community partners will also share information about recovery and rehabilitation for residents with property impacted by the fire.

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Aug. 27 - 11 a.m.

Deshka Landing Fire sees minimal growth, officials say

The latest update posted to AK Fire Info says the Deshka Landing Fire is continuing to smolder with minimal growth.

Fire Activity – South Flank of Deshka Landing Fire (Photo: Mike McMillan / DNR)

Here's the post, in part:

The northern portion of the fire is in mop-up operations. Fire crews are mopping in approximately 300 feet from the fireline where safe to do so. Firefighters are using ATVs to monitor and patrol the northeastern flank, extinguishing any visible hotspots.

Much of the terrain within the fire-burned area remains extremely dry. Heavy organic material continues to burn deeply, causing pockets of fuel to smolder. The public could see smoke from flare-ups over the next several months.

Fire crews successfully completed structure protection efforts along the Red Shirt Lake area and are now working on the two spot fires outside the southern perimeter, building containment lines and cooling hotspots.

 

Prineville Hotshot Sawyer Fells Fire-Weakened Tree (Photo: Mike McMillan / DNR)

 Fire InFire officials say only two firefighters have been injured so far while fighting the fire. One had a minor leg burn from stepping in an ash pit while another had a foreign object in the eye.

Highlights: 1,341 acres; 50% contained; 242 personnel

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Aug. 27 - 10:03 a.m.

PHOTOS: Work continues on McKinley Fire

The latest update posted to AK Fire Info shows Matanuska Electric Association employees working with firefighters to clear fallen trees from the McKinley Fire.

MEA and Snake River Valley 3 crew work together to clear power line areas (Photo: AK Fire Info)

 

"Restoring power is a top priority but is time consuming as trees fell during the fire in “jack straw” piles and on top of heat," the post says.

MEA and Snake River Valley 3 crew work together to clear power line areas (Photo: AK Fire Info)

Crews have to untangle the piles to find the heat source and put it out while MEA employees replace poles and fix lines.

MEA and Snake River Valley 3 crew work together to clear power line areas (Photo: AK Fire Info)

 See the rest of the photos on AK Fire Info.

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Aug. 27 - 8 a.m.

Travel advisory: Heavy fog and smoke 

Alaska Interagency Management Team's lead information officer Kale Casey said in a live update Tuesday morning that there is heavy fog and smoke affecting visibility through the McKinley Fire area. The current reduced speed on the Parks Highway is 45 mph, however, drivers are asked to use extreme caution. 

 
User: Alaska DNR- Division of Forestry (DOF) To: link

 

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Aug. 27 - 5:42 a.m.

McKinley Fire: 67% contained, school bus stops restricted from fire area

In a late night update Monday, the Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team said the McKinely Fire is now 67% contained. Bus routes for schools reopening Tuesday will not include 19 bus stops that are in the fire area so students aren't exposed to fire danger.

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Aug. 26 - 5:59 p.m.

Willow man uses V8 juice to save home from McKinley Fire

The damage to Paul Hemmelgarn’s property is obvious from the road, but the charred trees give way to a view of his home, still standing after the McKinley Fire.

“It jumped the highway and rolled right through the barrier of trees I had between me and the highway," he explained, later adding, “we had a very hectic afternoon with about an hour’s warning.”

Sheltering in place with no electricity, Hemmelgarn used anything and everything he had to protect his home — including items from his pantry — when his house started to catch on fire.

“I had three bottles of V8 juice I bought at Costco and they were sitting on the shelf. So that was my extinguishing media,” Hemmelgarn laughed. “Whatever works. Then I was getting ready to break into the cranberry juice.”

READ MORE: Willow man uses V8 juice to save home from McKinley Fire 

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Aug. 26 - 3:11 p.m.

McKinley Fire: Hazards property owners are facing as they return home

The Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team's lead information officer Kale Casey and Safety Officer Tom Greiling talk about hazards property owners should expect to face when they return home today.

An update posted to AK Fire Info says:

Please be advised, recently burned areas are very dangerous. Fire burns deeply in extremely dry duff layers and has weakened many trees that continue falling unexpectedly. Ash pits have caused minor burn injuries to firefighters. Ash pits are deep holes in the ground filled with hot ash and embers and are often hard to see. These conditions create a very dangerous environment for firefighters and residents.

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Aug. 26 - 1:36 p.m.

Extreme conditions: Alaska wildfire season extended

Alaska's wildfire season has been extended because of extreme conditions causing high fire danger throughout the state. It's the first time the season has been extended since 2006.

Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige made the announcement Monday. The season, which normally begins April 1 and ends on Aug. 31, is now in effect until Sept. 30.

READ MORE: Extreme conditions: Alaska wildfire season extended 

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Aug. 26 - 12 p.m.

McKinley Fire evacuation levels lowered

The Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough have lowered current evacuation levels for those near the McKinley Fire.

The biggest update? “Level 3 – Go” residents who were evacuated last Sunday, Aug. 17, will be able to head back to their properties Monday, Aug. 26, at noon.

Here are more evacuation updates, according to an online post on AK Fire Info:

The current “Level 3 – Go” evacuation for those residences in the area of the Parks Highway from milepost 81.5 to 92 will be reduced to a “Level 2 – Set.” As a general reminder, a “Level 2 – Set” means to have your items ready and be prepared to leave within minutes of an evacuation notification. Remain aware of the latest and updating news regarding the fire.

The current “Level 2 – Set” notification for those residences in the area of the Parks Highway from milepost 79 to 81.9 will be reduced to a “Level 1 – Ready.” The current “Level 1 – Ready” notification for those residences in the area of the Parks Highway from milepost from 76 to 79 will be removed.

However, please note it is suggested that anyone living in a Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) area remain always at a “Level 1 – Ready” and be prepared. A “Level 1 – Ready” means making sure your evacuation kits, family emergency communications plan, and your evacuation plan is prepared and that your family is ready.

 

McKinley Fire Evacuation Levels as of noon on Aug. 26, 2019 (Photo: AK Fire Info)

Fire officials say the fire hasn't had any significant growth since last week. However, it is still an active burning fire within the Interior that firefighters will be working to secure for weeks.

"During a wildfire and after the fire has burned through the landscape it continues to pose risks to those firefighters working on it and the public in the area," the post says. "There are ongoing hazardous situations and dangers that can be difficult to identify after the initial fire front. Use caution and good judgment, ultimately you are responsible for your own safety and well-being."

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Aug. 26 - 11:30 a.m.

Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District opens all northern schools

The Mat-Su Borough School District says all northern schools will resume Tuesday, Aug. 27: Talkeetna Elementary, Trapper Creek Elementary, Willow Elementary, Susitna Valley Jr./Sr. High School and Beryozova School.

 
User: Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District To: link

 

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Aug. 25 - 7:06 a.m.

McKinley Fire stays at 3,332 acres but many hazards remain

The McKinley Fire has stayed at 3,332 acres and is 46% contained. There are 449 fire personnel stabilizing the fire area, according to a live update from the Alaska Division of Forestry. There are still ash pits, falling trees and downed lines in the area. The Matanuska Electric Association restored power for hundreds of customers and are working to bring power back to those who are still without it.

Following are hazard and safety concerns outlined by the Alaska Incident Management Team:

Fire Weakened Trees

Trees native to the Mat-Su area like Spruce and Birch have shallow root systems that become compromised as the duff layer burns away. The tree may stay upright for days or weeks and then, without warning, fall over. This is a very real threat to people, animals and buildings.

Ash Pits

When the duff layer and root systems burn, occasionally the ground surface remains undamaged and looks normal. Firefighters have been severely injured on the McKinley Fire, when they stepped onto the thin crust of surface dirt and fell through into the still burning material underneath. This can happen to anyone and can result in severe burns.

Powerlines

Assume ALL downed powerlines are charged and contact your local utility to have them shut off before working in the area. Falling trees can take down powerlines even when the fire has moved through.

Equipment and Crews Working Nearby

Fire personnel are still focused on working an active fire in the area and utility crews continue working alongside the roadways, easements and on properties utilizing heavy equipment to safely restore services. Please drive safely and slowly in these areas, giving them the space to work. When driving past personnel and equipment, do so safely. For the safety of the fire personnel, utility crews, and your own, please stay clear of crews working to allow them to focus on their task. PLEASE also follow the restricted speed limit of posted 45mph.

Wandering into an active fire and areas that have burned adds risk to yourself and the fire personnel.

Hazardous Materials and Toxic Fumes

Burning building materials release toxic gases and often, the air in a fire area contains contaminants. High temperatures during a fire can compromise
hazardous material containers and the smoke within a fire area can be very dangerous, as well as exposed substances on the ground.

Watch the full update:

 
User: Alaska DNR- Division of Forestry (DOF) To: link

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Aug. 25 - 11:00 p.m.

McKinley Fire evening update, community meeting scheduled Tuesday

Another community meeting will be held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Willow Elementary School. The meeting will be livestreamed on the Division of Forestry Facebook page. Stephanie Bishop of DOF says representatives from multiple agencies will be present to address community concerns, particularly debris clean-up.

Watch the full update:

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Aug. 25 - 3:00 p.m.

Deshka Landing community meeting, fire is 25% contained and at 1,543 acres

 
User: Alaska DNR- Division of Forestry (DOF) To: link

There are no current evacuation orders in effect for the Deshka Landing Fire, according to an update posted on AK Fire Info. The Nancy Lake Recreation Area remains closed for recreation and hunting due to firefighting activity.

As of 9:30 a.m. Sunday, the Deshka Landing Fire is 25% contained and has burned 1,543 acres.

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Aug. 25 - 8:59 a.m.

Air quality advisory in effect through Monday afternoon 

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has issued an air quality advisory in effect through Monday afternoon. The areas included in the advisory are Susitna Valley, Kenai Peninsula and the Copper River Valley.

More details from AK Fire Info:

Fire

Southcentral Alaska is being impacted by the smoke from multiple wildfires in the surrounding area. A listing of activity for specific fires is available at: fire.ak.blm.gov, AICC Situation Report.

Smoke

Susitna Valley: Smoke will be pushed north as winds shift to the south today and bring smoke from Swan Lake. These impacts will extend up the Alaska Range. A wind switch back to the north tomorrow afternoon will move smoke south again.

Anchorage Area: Smoke from Swan Lake has already moved into the area with the wind shift to the south. Smoke impacts may be moderated a bit today by stronger Turnagain Arm winds.

Kenai Peninsula: Winds shifting to the south should help clear smoke out of Seward and may improve air quality in Cooper Landing a bit. Sterling will be seeing the bulk of the smoke today with some being pushed towards Soldotna and Kenai later in the afternoon. Winds shift to the northwest again midday tomorrow and push smoke back to the south and east.

Full smoke outlook:

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Aug. 25 - 7:30 a.m.

Two-way traffic resumes on Parks Highway, new information phone number

McKinley Fire Information says all lanes on Parks Highway will be open beginning at noon on Aug. 25. 

An update from the information office reads:

While there will no longer be a pilot car, please note the current restricted speed limit of 45 mph will remain in effect. Please drive with caution as flaggers will continue to be on the roadway in areas where fire crews and equipment will be entering/exiting the roadway. Drivers are encouraged to turn on headlights to increase visibility. AST will continue to monitor the area with patrols to ensure firefighters and public safety.

 

The McKinley Fire information number has been changed to 907-313-9826 and will be open from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

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Aug. 24 - 11:15 p.m.

McKinley Fire update from Division of Forestry, fire is 28% contained

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Aug. 24 - 5:11 p.m.

Community meeting planned for Deshka Landing Fire

According to AK Fire Info, Northwest Incident Management Team 10 will update people on the current situation, fire behavior and weather at a community meeting Sunday, Aug. 24 at 3 p.m. at Willow Elementary School.

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Aug. 24 - 3:31 p.m.

Sen. Sullivan visits wildfire evacuation center

Sen. Dan Sullivan met with people at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center Sunday afternoon.

It's being used as a Red Cross emergency overnight shelter for people displaced by the McKinley Fire.

Sen. Dan Sullivan visits the evacuation center for people evacuating McKinley Fire. (Dave Leval / KTVA)

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Aug. 24 - 2:40 p.m.

Firefighters protecting structures around Red Shirt Lake

Crews are setting up pumps and hoses around structures near Red Shirt Lake in an effort to protect them from the Deshka Landing Fire. They've treated the northern three miles of the lake's shore too.

An update on AK Fire Info says good progress has been made on the fire over the last few days.

"We will begin to use heavy equipment today to speed up the process and further protect firefighters," the update reads.

Suppression efforts are focused on keeping the fire from reaching private property and developed areas.

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Aug. 24 - 2:20 p.m.

Dunleavy flies over Mat-Su wildfire damage

Governor Mike Dunleavy took to the air Saturday to look at the damage from the McKinley and Deshka Landing Fires. What he saw surprised him.

"It went right down the highway where residences are, where businesses are on each side of the highway," the governor said as he discussed his thoughts on the McKinley Fire. "If you look a few miles beyond that, the fire didn't touch certain areas where there are no residences or dwellings."

Alaska Air National Guard Brig. Gen. Torrence Saxe, Matanuska-Susitna Borough Mayor Vern Halter joined the governor on the one-hour flight. Halter has seen the devastation from the ground, but the view from the air surprised him too.

READ MORE: Dunleavy flies over Mat-Su wildfire damage 

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Aug. 24 - noon

'I hope it's not the new reality': Governor tours wildfire damage

Gov. Mike Dunleavy says he hopes the wildfires burning across the state do not signal a new normal.

"I hope it's not the new reality," he said.

The governor took an aerial tour of areas damaged by the McKinley and Deshka Landing Fires on Saturday morning before discussing his disaster declarations for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

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Aug. 24 - 10:53 a.m.

McKinley Fire community meeting scheduled for Sunday morning

A community meeting is scheduled for Sunday at 10 a.m. at the Upper Susitna Senior Center in Talkeetna.

Losses from the blaze include 51 homes, three commercial buildings and 84 outbuildings, according to AK Fire Info.

The fire is 11% contained and burning 3,368 acres.

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Aug. 24 - 8:55 a.m.

Mat-Su residents with fire damage may qualify for property tax break

People who have lost their homes or had significant damage from wildfires in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough may be eligible for a break on their 2019 property taxes.

Borough Assessor Brad Pickett said fire damage exceeding $1,000 to real property will qualify for a reassessment from the borough. But Pickett said people need to be aware that there’s a deadline to apply.

READ MORE:  

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Aug. 23 - 6:41 p.m.

Coffee customers pitch in to help Camp Caswell owners start over

Many of the families who lost their homes in the McKinley Fire lost everything, but when it comes to the three businesses that burned the whole community feels the loss.

Mocha Moose manager Leanna Hickman is doing what she can to help the owners of Camp Caswell. Dennis and Becky Cornforth are her children’s grandparents. Hickman said the family values their privacy and hasn’t asked for help.

But her coffee customers wanted to give.

READ MORE: Coffee customers pitch in to help Camp Caswell owners start over 

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Aug. 23 - 6:17 p.m.

Dunleavy issues disaster declaration for wildfires

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has issued a disaster declaration for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Kenai Peninsula Borough in response to impacts from the McKinley, Deshka Landing and Swan Lake wildfires.

A release from the governor's office says the fires have damaged or destroyed around 83 structures, caused the evacuation of about 400 people and led to delays in travel along the Sterling and Parks highways as well as the Alaska Railroad.

“In a short amount of time, these wildfires have already cost dozens of Alaskan families everything they own. Many homes, personal belongings, and businesses are completely gone, and the disruption brought to their lives is unimaginable,” Dunleavy said. “This declaration frees up financial assistance to help the victims of these devastating fires begin to rebuild their lives as quickly as possible.”

READ MORE: Dunleavy issues disaster declaration for McKinley, Deshka Landing, Swan Lake wildfires 

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Aug. 23 - 4:57 p.m.

McKinley Fire: “Level 2 – Set” notification issued for Parks Highway MP 79 to 81.5.

A "Level 2 - Set" notification has been issued for people living in the area near Parks Highway mileposts 79 through 81.5. The latest update posted to AK Fire Info says this is because of "predicted northeast winds of about 15 mph."

Being in a "set" notification means residents should be prepared to leave their homes within minutes of a notification to evacuate. Officials say to stay aware of the latest fire information.

There is also a "Level 1 - Ready" notification for those near mileposts 76 to 79. This means residents in that area should have evacuation kits, as well as emergency and evacuation plans prepared.

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Aug. 23 - 4:35 p.m.

Red Cross to keep Upper Susitna Senior Center shelter open 

The Red Cross of Alaska has decided to keep the emergency shelter located at the Upper Susitna Senior Center (16463 Helena Drive, Talkeetna) open.

Cari Dighton with the Red Cross said Friday afternoon that the closure was rescinded because of changing fire conditions and meeting the needs of the community.
 

The Wasilla shelter will stay open as long as it’s needed.

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Aug. 23 - 3 p.m.

McKinley Fire: Increase in open flames, tree torching and smoke

Fire officials say that although the McKinley fire has not increased in size, they have noticed active fire behavior with an increase in open flames, tree torching and smoke output.

"An incredible amount of fire-weakened trees (both burned and unburned) creates a very dangerous working environment for firefighters while also impacting roads, the railroad and power lines," an online update says. "Extremely dry duff layers and a lack of crews is contributing to a slow mop up where fuels are resistant to being extinguished."

JBER Taskforce working on securing their lines. (Photo: Julian Neubauer/Ak Fire Info)

Three additional crews are expected to arrive Friday. Here's what current crews are working on, according to the latest update on AK Fire Info:

Firefighters, in conjunction with local agencies, worked diligently to perform a multitude of tasks at hand in their effort to protect homes and properties in the area, secure the burned area, and ultimately contain the wildfire. Crews continued mopping up and falling hazard trees around structures as they work to stabilize residential areas. Matanuska Electric Association utilized lift trucks, heavy equipment, and fallers to safeguard the power lines from fire-weakened trees and other hazards as they are in the process of reenergizing the main electrical lines. Dozers and crews built containment lines around the fire perimeter, while also dealing with spot fires and flare-ups. Two National Guard Blackhawks (UH60 Helicopters) dropped water to help cool areas of concern.

 

Highlights: 3,753 acres, 10% contained, 318 personnel

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Aug. 23 - 2:35 p.m.

McKinley Fire update: Lost structures

Aug. 23 - 2:24 p.m.

Mat-Su School District cancels outdoor activities

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District has cancelled outdoor activities Friday, Aug. 23 because of poor air quality.

The district made the announcement Friday afternoon on social media.

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Aug. 23 - 12:57 p.m.

Hunting and public access to Willow Swamp area restricted

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has closed a portion of Game Management Unit 14A to hunting, while the Department of Natural Resources has restricted all public access to state lands in the same area because of the Deshka Landing Fire.

These closures limit hunting and access to the Willow Swamp area and its immediate vicinity and is effective beginning Friday, Aug. 23. The swamp was scheduled to open Sunday, Aug. 25.

"The Willow Swamp is located in the middle of the 2,217-acre Deshka Landing Fire burning west of Nancy Lake Recreation Area near Willow," an online update from the Alaska Division of Forestry says. "[...] State Forester Chris Maisch has determined that allowing hunters in the area could pose a safety hazard to both the public and firefighting personnel and due to record dry conditions increase fire risk."

Maisch recommended ADF&G issue an emergency closure order. DOF also issued a public closure order. Alaska State Parks closed the Nancy Lake Recreation Area earlier this week.

The closures apply to the following areas, according to DOF:

Unit 14(A), that portion north of 61.671297, -150.303068 (Decimal Degree System) on the east bank of the Susitna River directly east to the western boundary of the Nancy Lake State Recreation west of the western boundary of the Nancy Lake State Recreation Area to the western shoreline of Big Darrell Lake, then to and along the western shoreline of Vera Lake to Deshka Landing Road, south of the South side of Deshka Landing road from Vera Lake, continuing around the south side of the developed Deshka Landing properties and west to the Susitna River, and east of the east bank of the Susitna River to waypoint 61.671297, -150.303068 (Decimal Degree System) on the east bank of the Susitna River.

"While the Division of Forestry and Department of Fish and Game recognize that this restriction poses an inconvenience to the public, both agencies request that hunters and other members of the public adhere to the access restrictions to allow firefighters to do their job containing and suppressing the Deshka Landing Fire," the update says.

DOF says the orders will be in effect until fire suppression activities are completed and the closures are rescinded.

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Aug. 23 - 12:38 p.m.

ASD after-school outdoor practices being moved inside

The Anchorage School District has announced that all after-school outdoor practices Friday are being moved indoors because of air quality conditions.

All outdoor athletic competitions are also being rescheduled to Saturday, Aug. 24. The district's website suggests checking with schools for new game times.

More information can be found on the ASD website.

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Aug. 23 - 11:42 a.m.

McKinley fire damage update

Ken Barkley, the director of Matanuska-Susitna Borough Emergency Services, says 51 homes, 80 outbuildings and three businesses were lost in McKinley Fire. 

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Aug. 23 - 11:17 a.m.

Better mapping: Deshka Landing Fire size reduced by 700 acres

The size of the Deshka Landing Fire has been reduced by 700 acres because of better mapping, fire officials say. Its estimated size is now 1,543 acres.

A member of the Prineville Hotshots swats flames with a spruce bough on the Deshka Landing Fire on Thursday, August 22, 2019. (Photo: Mike McMillan/Alaska Division of Forestry)

"No structures or private land have been involved," an update from the Alaska Division of Forestry says. "Approximately 165 firefighters and support personnel continue to be actively engaged in various tasks to limit the fire’s spread using direct tactics assisted by water and retardant aircraft."

Firefighters are working to contain the fire on the south and eastern flanks by building fireline directly on the fire's edge, using pumps and hoses where needed. Helicopters are now being used to move people and equipment into remote sections of the fire, as well as dropping water on hot spots.

A member of the Prineville Hotshots sprays a hotspot on Deshka Landing Fire near Willow on Thursday, August 22. (Photo: Mike McMillan/Alaska Division of Forestry)

Though no evacuation orders have been issued, residents living to the east of the fire are asked to be prepared for conditions to change. Nancy Lake State Recreation Area is closed to recreation and hunting.

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Aug. 23 - 9 a.m.

Mat-Su Borough gives update on school closures

Staff at Beryozova School, Willow Elementary School, Talkeetna Elementary School, Trapper Creek Elementary School and Su Valley Jr./Sr. High School will return Monday, Aug. 26, according to the Mat-Su Borough School District.

Students are tentatively set to return on Tuesday, Aug. 27.

 
User: Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District To: link

 

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Aug. 23 - 6:30 a.m.

Red Cross consolidating overnight shelter services for McKinley Fire evacuees

The Red Cross of Alaska is transferring all overnight shelter services for those displaced by the McKinley Fire to the emergency shelter at the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center in Wasilla beginning at 4 p.m. Friday.

“The Red Cross of Alaska will be consolidating the emergency shelter located at the Upper Susitna Senior Center (16463 Helena Drive, Talkeetna) at 4:00 pm today,” the organization wrote in a Friday news release.

On Sunday, 45 people overnighted at the Talkeetna shelter. It had been the official evacuation spot for people who couldn’t return to their properties on the north side of the McKinley Fire.

The Wasilla shelter will stay open as long as it’s needed.

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Aug. 22 - 7:25 p.m.

Deshka Landing Fire now 15% contained

The Deshka Landing Fire is now 15% contained, according to the latest information from fire officials.

The fire, which is located about five miles southwest of Willow, has burned over 1,500 acres. Fire officials say the reduced acreage is due to better mapping.

A perimeter map of the 1,543-acre Deshka Landing Fire as of Aug. 22, 2019. (Photo: AK Fire Info)

"The fire continues to slowly burn on land administered by the State of Alaska and has moved onto the Nancy Lakes State Recreation Area," the update says. "As of Thursday evening, the Deshka Landing Fire is not significantly expanding."

Over 150 personnel are working the fire. The cause remains under investigation.

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Aug. 22 - 6:30 p.m.

WATCH: The latest update on the Deshka Landing Fire

The following video is of the community meeting at the Willow Community Center where PNW Team 10 Incident Commander Alan Lawson is answering questions about the Deshka Landing Fire. A short update on the McKinley fire will be provided by IC Norm McDonald.

Watch the video:

 
User: Alaska DNR- Division of Forestry (DOF) To: link

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Aug. 22 - 6 p.m.

Alaska pilots: Observe TFRs, don't fly over wildfires

State fire officials are urging private pilots to keep away from active fire areas and respect airspace temporary flight restrictions.

Flight restrictions have been established in airspace over the McKinley and Deska fires; however, officials say there have been "multiple incursions by private aircraft in the airspace over these fires in the past week."

“We understand these restrictions may be an inconvenience for pilots, but the safety of the public and firefighters has to be our number-one priority,” Tim Mowry, a spokesperson for the Alaska Division of Forestry, said. “Incursions by private aircraft endanger the rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft used to drop water or fire retardant, to transport firefighting crews and equipment, or to provide aerial reconnaissance.”

The restrictions are in effect from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. for both fires. 

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Aug. 22 - 5:28 p.m.

How MEA and fire personnel are coordinating to re-energize powerlines

The Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team's lead information officer Kale Casey was joined by Matanuska Electric Association Operations Manager Greg Chamberland to explain what's going on with powerlines near the McKinley Fire and how the process to re-energize them works.

Watch the full video:

 
User: Alaska DNR- Division of Forestry (DOF) To: link

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Aug. 22 - 5:17 p.m.

FEMA authorizes federal funds to help fight Deshka Landing Fire

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has authorized the use of federal funds to help cover the costs of response efforts to the Deshka Landing Fire.

The organization sent out a release earlier Thursday morning confirming the authorization. It reads, in part:

FEMA Region 10 Administrator Mike O’Hare determined that the fire threatened to cause such destruction as would constitute a major disaster. He approved the state of Alaska’s request for a federal Fire Management Assistance Grant (FMAG) at 9:06 p.m. PDT on Wednesday.

The fire started August 17 and had burned in excess of 1,800 acres of state land at the time of the state’s request. The fire was 5 percent contained and was threatening homes in and around the communities of Willow, Deshka Landing and Red Shirt Lake. Level III evacuations were issued for residents in 71 homes and Level I evacuations were issued for 849 homes near the affected communities.

FMAGs are provided through the President's Disaster Relief Fund and are made available by FEMA to assist in fighting fires that threaten to cause a major disaster. Eligible items can include expenses for field camps; equipment use, repair and replacement; mobilization and demobilization activities; and tools, materials and supplies.

In addition to reimbursement funding for fighting the fire, $454,432 in mitigation assistance will be available to Alaska. The Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 authorizes FEMA to provide Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) Post-Fire funds to eligible states and territories that receive Fire Management Assistance declarations and federally recognized tribes that have land burned within a declared area.

The release states HMGP post-fire funds are encouraged to be used for the "mitigation of wildfire and related hazards;" however it is available for risk reduction of any hazard.

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Aug. 22 - 4:09 p.m.

Mat-Su Borough officials to announce buildings destroyed in McKinley Fire

It's an announcement that may be hard to hear. On Friday, Mat-Su residents will learn whether their homes burned in the McKinley Fire.

A post Thursday afternoon on the Matanuska-Susitna Borough website asked anyone whose property is located in the fire zone to meet at either the Upper Susitna Senior Center or the Curtis D. Menard Memorial Sports Center from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Friday. Officials will announce whose homes survived the fire and whose did not.

READ MORE: Mat-Su Borough officials to announce buildings destroyed in McKinley Fire 

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Aug. 22 - 3:28 p.m.

Anchorage clinic offers free care for dogs and cats affected by wildfires

A veterinary clinic in Anchorage is offering to help people whose pets have been affected by wildfires.

Pet Emergency Treatment on Lake Otis Parkway and Dowling Road will provide free medical care and boarding for dogs and cats who have been injured.

READ MORE: Anchorage clinic offers free care for dogs and cats affected by wildfires 

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Aug. 22 - 2:15 p.m.

Alaska State Fair fireworks canceled

The Alaska State Fair's website says fireworks are canceled this year.

"As we do each year, we will monitor and adhere to the emergency burn closure which is issued by the State of Alaska Division of Forestry," a statement says.

The state fair runs from Aug. 22 to Sept. 2 in Palmer.

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Aug. 22 - 2 p.m.

All residents accounted for in McKinley Fire

The Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team's lead information officer Kale Casey says all residents asked to evacuate from the McKinley Fire have been accounted for.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated, but is believed to be human-caused. Casey says fire officials are concerned about winds on Saturday, but if everything remains stable overnight there is a possibility that people will be able to return to their homes on a case-by-case basis.

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Aug. 22 - 1:10 p.m.

WATCH: Alaska DOF McKinley Fire update

The Alaska Division of Forestry and American Red Cross gave an update on the McKinley Fire at the evacuation center at the Menard Sports Center in Wasilla, Alaska.

 
User: Alaska DNR- Division of Forestry (DOF) To: link

Highlights: Containment is 10%; 273 firefighters; 3,752 acres.

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Aug. 22 - 12:27 p.m.

Southcentral Alaska smoke outlook, air quality advisory issued for Susitna Valley

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has issued an air quality advisory for the Susitna Valley and Kenai Peninsula. It will be in effect through Friday afternoon.

Smoke outlook map for Aug. 22, 2019. (Photo: AK Fire Info)

The latest update from the Alaska Division of Forestry says Southcental is being impacted by the smoke from multiple wildfires. Here is their smoke outlook for Thursday:

Susitna Valley

Smoke in the valley that settled overnight will lift in the morning and improve air quality. May start to see smoke increase a bit in the afternoon with winds shifting to the north. The overnight inversion will again cause smoke to settle in the valley.

Anchorage Area

Improved air quality today but with continued haze. Late tonight into tomorrow decreasing air quality as smoke settles into the valleys and southerly winds move Swan Lake smoke north. Kenai Peninsula communities closest to the Swan Lake Fire will continue to see most impacts, especially Cooper Landing. However eastern side down to Seward should see some improvements as smoke is pushed to the west. Sterling, Soldotna and Kenai to south Homer will see the most smoke today with decreasing air quality. Expect smoke to move out to the east tomorrow with another wind shift.

If you're noticing health effects from smoke, DOF says you should limit prolonged or heavy exertion, reduce or avoid time outside and limit exercise outdoors.

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Aug. 22 - 12:01 p.m.

Thursday weather update

KTVA's Jeremy LaGoo Join talks about the worsening drought, air quality and chance of rain in the forecast.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

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Aug. 22 - 11:10 a.m.

McKinley Fire: Firefighters make 'significant progress'

Incident Commander Norm McDonald says firefighters have made significant progress building direct containment lines for the McKinley Fire.

Crews cut hazard trees near edge of McKinley Fire fireline (Photo: AK Fire Info)

"Light winds and more favorable weather allowed firefighters to complete their second consecutive day of direct attack along the fire perimeter," the online update on AK Fire Info read. "A combination of dozers and crews worked to secure structures and the uncontained fire’s edge while helicopters supported their efforts with water drops. Structure protection and assessment work continues. Additional crews and engines continue to arrive. Acreage reduction was due to the ability to do more accurate mapping."

Fire officials also responded to a 20-acre spot fire on the east side of Parks Highway near MP84; it's expected to be completely lined Thursday.

Hazard trees near McKinley Fire line (Photo: AK Fire Info)

"Along the west flank, firefighters worked to protect structures using a combination of dozer line, handline, and the Susitna River to prevent the fire from spreading," the update continued. "The east flank containment lines and swampy areas held the fire. One area near Sheep Creek flared up, but the fire remains west of the creek. Crews are installing a system of pumps and hoses to spray water on the fire. Extremely dry fuels and fire-weakened trees with shallow root systems make mop up dangerous and labor intensive. Trees are falling and flaring up where many fire personnel are working."

McKinley Fire Evacuation Map 8-/22/19 (Photo: AK Fire Info)

Firefighters Thursday will "focus on mopping up around structures and reinforcing containment lines as they prepare for increased winds from a cold front forecasted to pass through the fire area this weekend."

Fire danger is still very high in the Mat-Su. Evacuation orders remain in effect for those who live along the highway from MP82 to MP92.

Though the Parks Highway is open, officials say motorists should expect long delays and intermittent closures due to fire activity.

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Aug. 22 - 9 a.m.

Deshka Landing Fire 10% contained

The Division of Forestry says the Deshka Landing Fire is 10% contained and continues to burn at about 2,217 acres Thursday morning.

There are about 150 people working to limit the fire's spread using several tactics, including water and retardant aircraft.

One danger in the area is falling trees. Due to dry conditions, the fire is affecting both living and dead trees' root systems, weakening them and making the trees fall. In some areas trees are being cut before firelines can be built.

There's a community meeting at Willow Elementary School Thursday evening at 6:30.

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Aug. 22 - 8 a.m.

Butte shooting range closed due to fire concern

The Kenny and Patti Barber Shooting Range in the Butte is closed due to wildfire concerns. 

Department of Natural Resource Commissioner Corri Feige made the announcement at a press conference on Wednesday. 

“We have closed that shooting range for the immediate future because of dry fuel in the area,” Feige explained. “There’s so much in the way of leaves and dry grass that it does present a fire hazard.”

READ MORE: Butte shooting range closed due to fire concern 

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Aug. 21 - 11 p.m.

McKinley Fire 10% contained

The Division of Forestry announced Wednesday night the McKinley Fire is 10% contained and the overall acreage has decreased to 3,752 acres. Firefighting crews are still arriving to continue working on containment.

Alaska State Troopers are patrolling evacuation areas to prevent crime. After some reports of evacuees' property being burglarized, troopers put a patrol car near Hidden Hills.

“Immediately after evacuations were initiated due to the McKinley fire, troopers initiated proactive patrols throughout the areas evacuated. These proactive patrols have been occurring 24 hours per day with a goal to provide a safe working environment for emergency responders, safe passage through the fire area, and to deter burglary, theft, and other crimes from occurring,” Lt. Paul Fussey said.

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Aug. 21 - 8:11 p.m.

Butte shooting range closed due to fire concern

The Kenny and Patti Barber Shooting Range in the Butte is closed due to wildfire concerns.

Department of Natural Resource Commissioner Corri Feige made the announcement at a press conference on Wednesday.

“We have closed that shooting range for the immediate future because of dry fuel in the area,” Feige explained. “There’s so much in the way of leaves and dry grass that it does present a fire hazard.”

READ MORE: Butte shooting range closed due to fire concern 

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Aug. 21 - 7:55 p.m.

WATCH: Layers of smoke from wildfires

Southcentral Alaska has seen layers of smoke from wildfires throughout the region. This drone footage shows what the smoke looked like in Anchorage on Monday.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

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Aug. 21 - 7:31 p.m.

Wednesday weather update

Chief Meteorologist Melissa Frey has the latest air quality numbers and a look at how fire danger will change in the week ahead.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

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Aug. 21 - 7:04 p.m.

Firefighters worry about wildfire danger with hunting season

Hunting season is set to begin this weekend and there is concern about hunters traveling near wildfires currently burning in the Willow area.

Alaska Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige said at a news conference Wednesday that officials are considering closing the Willow marsh, also called the Willow swamp. It's a spot officials say is on the front line of the Deshka Landing Fire — and a big moose hunting area.

READ MORE: Firefighters worry about wildfire danger with hunting season 

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Aug. 21 - 6:45 p.m.

Couple who lost home in McKinley Fire grateful for help

If you've driven the stretch of Parks Highway between Willow and Talkeetna since the McKinley Fire started, you've passed by Dan and Shari Larson's property.

At mile 86.6, it's one of the most heavily damaged areas that you can see from the road. The couple lost their home, three cabins and multiple vehicles. They haven't been back or even driven by.

READ MORE: Couple who lost home in McKinley Fire grateful for help 

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Aug. 21 - 6 p.m.

AFD assistant chief says conditions in Anchorage are extreme

Alex Boyd, an assistant chief with the Anchorage Fire Department, says conditions in Anchorage are extreme. Watch the full interview:

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Aug. 21 - 5:49 p.m.

Mat-Su Animal Shelter rescues pets from McKinley Fire, requests donations

Visibility inside the McKinley Fire zone was at about a car’s length in front of Matanuska-Susitna Borough animal control officer Darla Erskine as she drove through smoke looking for a lost dog Monday evening.

“Mat-Com called me and asked me where I was at and I was like, ‘I don’t know, I’m in the fire zone somewhere,’ and boom, all of a sudden, there’s the trooper and there’s the dog,” she said.

Erskine had a strong hunch she knew which farm the dog was from. She’d been there before. The next day, she and fellow officer Lea Kahler decided to go back in and look for any other animals who might have survived.

READ MORE: Mat-Su Animal Shelter rescues pets from McKinley Fire, requests donations 

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Aug. 21 - 5:34 p.m.

Kenai Peninsula Borough declares disaster emergency

Mayor Charlie Pierce has declared a local disaster emergency for the Kenai Peninsula Borough due to multiple wildfires and high fire danger throughout the borough and outside of its cities.

The fires listed in the declaration include the Swan Lake Fire, North Fork Fire and Caribou Lake Fire. The declaration states the borough has already expended significant resources attempting to protect public safety, and it is unable to provide effective response to the fires.

READ MORE: Kenai Peninsula Borough declares disaster emergency 

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Aug. 21 - 2:55 p.m.

Alaska Railroad resumes service in burn areas

The Associated Press reports the Alaska Railroad has resumed passenger service between Anchorage and Fairbanks that was cancelled because of a fire burning along tracks north of Willow. 

Railroad spokesman Tim Sullivan says passenger service resumed Wednesday morning in Anchorage with trains heading for Talkeetna, Denali National Park and Fairbanks. 

The fire began Saturday, with continued strong winds pushing the fire across the Parks Highway and across railroad tracks. 

Rail passengers were transported by bus after the disruption of train service. 

Sullivan says freight and passengers service also was disrupted when a retaining wall supporting the tracks slipped at Healy Canyon between Healy and Denali Friday, compromising the route. Service there also resumed following repairs. 

Sullivan says railroad crews will continue to monitor both areas as a safety precaution.

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Aug. 21 - 2:44 p.m.

Houston restaurant serves firefighters free meal as thanks for fighting wildfires

Jessica Briles is not shy about her culinary skills. 

"The one thing I've always been know to do is cook," she said. 

Briles co-owns Houston's Triple J Roadhouse with her husband. 

"When I get nervous, or I'm upset, I've got to cook," she said. "At least I know I'm doing something positive. I can feed people." 

The couple wants to feed a lot of people. They're offering all first responders dealing with the Mat-Su fires free chili or soup, corn bread, sweet tea or coffee. It's their way to say thanks to those battling the wildfires.

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Aug. 21 - 1:35 p.m.

State officials discuss the latest on wildfires

Officials from the Department of Natural Resources and the Division of Forestry are in Palmer to talk about the wildfires affecting Southcentral Alaska.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

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Aug. 21 - 12:25 p.m.

DOF: McKinley Fire is 'very similar' to 2015 Sockeye Fire

It’s a wound yet to heal — people in Willow are still dealing with the aftermath of the 2015 Sockeye Fire, and now there’s new destruction from the McKinley Fire. But for crews working the line, déjà vu could be a good thing.

The current fire is following a familiar pattern that the area saw four years ago. If the McKinley Fire reaches the area where the Sockeye burned, the old fire scars could slow its spread.

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Aug. 21 - 10:17 a.m.

Deshka Landing Fire sees little growth, traffic stop moved north to milepost 76

According to an update from the Division of Forestry, the Deshka Landing Fire has not grown significantly since Tuesday. They estimate the fire is 2,217 acres and that it is 5% contained. DOF says no structures have been lost due to the Deshka Landing Fire and that it is moving very slowly toward the north end of Red Shirt Lake.

 

Deshka Landing Fire perimeter map as of Wednesday, Aug. 21. (Courtesy: Alaska Division of Forestry)

There are about 40 firefighters working on the fire. Wednesday's work will be focused on the southern and eastern edge of the fire. The Deshka Landing Fire is in a remote location and DOF says firefighters are camping out near the fire.

In a Facebook Live message from Kale Casey, Chief Information Officer for the Alaska Team, the traffic stop on the Parks Highway has moved north to milepost 76 near Kashwitna Lake. 

Watch the full update:

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Aug. 21 - 9:40 a.m.

Emergency burn closure in place in Mat-Su and Kenai Peninsula

The Division of Forestry posted a video recap of information shared throughout Tuesday. Forestry says fire growth slowed down and the McKinley Fire is estimated to be 4,349 acres. There are 250 firefighting crews working on the fire. 

The Division of Forestry has sent out an emergency burn closure starting Wednesday morning for most of Southcentral Alaska due to extreme wildfire danger and activity in the region.

According to an update posted on AK Fire Info, the division has limited resources to respond to new fires and are prohibiting all burning, including campfires and charcoal grills. 

"Devices that can be turned on and off, such as gas and pellet grills and backpacking or camp stoves that use fuel or compressed fuel canisters, will still be allowed," DOF said. "The closure includes campfires in established fire pits or rings in designated campgrounds."

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Aug. 20 - 11 p.m.

McKinley Fire estimated 4,349 acres, evacuations and temporary flight restrictions remain

The Division of Forestry posted a video recap of information shared throughout Tuesday. Forestry says fire growth slowed down and the McKinley Fire is estimated to be 4,349 acres. There are 250 firefighting crews working on the fire. 

Watch the full recap from the Division of Forestry:

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Aug. 20 - 9:10 p.m.

A first look at devastation from inside the fire line on the McKinley Fire

KTVA's Lauren Maxwell has the latest images from the destruction along the Parks Highway on Tuesday from the McKinley Fire.

 

 

 Photos taken from various points along the fire line show the destruction from the McKinley Fire on Aug. 20.

 

Photos taken from various points along the fire line show the destruction from the McKinley Fire on Aug. 20.

 

 

Photos taken from various points along the fire line show the destruction from the McKinley Fire on Aug. 20.

 

 

A first look at devastation from inside the fire line on the McKinley Fire along the Parks Highway on Tuesday.
Photos taken from various points along the fire line show the destruction from the McKinley Fire on Aug. 20.

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Aug. 20 - 6 p.m.

The latest on the Deshka Landing Fire

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Aug. 20 - 6:25 p.m.

At least 80 structures lost to McKinley Fire

Nearly 100 community members turned out for a briefing on the McKinley Fire at Willow Elementary school on Tuesday afternoon.

Incident commanders gave information on where the fire is burning, the status of the Parks Highway and when people who had been evacuated could expect to return to their property.

Meteorologist Julia Rutherford told the crowd that diminishing winds from the weekend have kept the fire from spreading significantly, but she cautioned that more dry weather was on the way. Rutherford said showers could happen in the Mat-Su Friday evening, but not enough to change moisture levels which are now at record lows.

The Mat-Su Borough said at least 80 structures have been lost in the fire. Borough Mayor Vern Halter said that's a tough reminder of what happened to the same community during the Sockeye Fire the summer of 2015.

"It's just sad for Willow and the Mat-Su Borough that we have to go through this again," Halter said.

As for when people who have been evacuated can return to their property, the answer they got is, "not now." Incident Commander Norm McDonald said the situation is still too dangerous.

"Right now we still have downed power lines, we have falling trees there is still active fire, we have a lot of fire traffic and smokey conditions and so the combination of things now is just not safe for people to be in those neighborhoods," McDonald said.

Many of the questions were about when the Parks Highway would be back to two lanes. The road is one lane with a pilot car leading the way between miles 71 and 99. Troopers told the crowd the road will stay that way for at least the next few days. Officials said if you don't need to drive between Willow and Talkeetna, you shouldn't.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Gov. Mike Dunleavy's press secretary Matt Schuckerow said the McKinley Fire is not contained. Statewide, he said there have been 659 fires affecting over 2 million acres.

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Aug. 20 - 5:48 p.m.

Evening weather: Impacts on fire danger

The latest on our air quality and how our temperature, wind and humidity will impact fire danger this week.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

___

Aug. 20 - 5:34 p.m.

MEA works to repair power infrastructure in de-energized McKinley Fire zone

Some are evacuated, but roughly 500 homes are without power due to the McKinley Fire.

The Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) has de-energized power lines between miles 84 and 92 of the Parks Highway. Gregory Chamberlain, the senior manager of operations at MEA, said a couple poles are broken and 15 to 20 spans of wire went down — spans of wire are 400-foot lengths of electric line between poles.

Chamberlain said MEA workers are dealing with some of the same challenges as fire crews.

“Smoke inhalation, problems with the trees falling around you, because […] the ground is so dry that it’s burning down, and it’s burning the roots off the trees. So those trees now become trees that can fall over,” he said.

He said crews focused on clearing roads for fire crews Tuesday after more trees blew over and ruined progress they had made on restoring lines Monday.

MEA says when it’s safe to turn the power back on, it will likely happen progressively and not all at once.

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Aug. 20 - 3:32 p.m.

Cash vs. clothing: The best way to help wildfire victims

Alaskans looking to help those displaced by wildfires are asked to make monetary donations rather than bringing food and supplies to shelters, according to the Red Cross of Alaska.

“We know Alaskans are generous and want to do everything they can to help after a disaster,” said regional communications officer Cari Dighton in an email on Tuesday. “The first priority for the Red Cross is to provide shelter and support to those affected, and financial donations are the quickest and best way to get help to those who need it most.”

She said monetary donations can be used right away to help people affected by the wildfires and can replace items such as prescription medications and reading glasses.

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Aug. 20 - 3 p.m.

Latest updates on Deshka Landing and McKinley fires

Fire officials are at Willow Elementary School with the latest on the fires in the Mat-Su.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

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Aug. 20 - 2:53 p.m.

Firefighters working direct on east flank of Deshka Landing Fire

The Deshka Landing Fire hasn't shown significant growth and remains estimated at 2,217 acres, an online update from Public Information Officer Sam Harrel said.

The update posted on Alaska Wildland Fire Information says firefighters are building containment lines along the fire's edge on the eastern side, which is closest to structures near Long Lake Road. Crews are also working to protect more than 45 cabins around Red Shirt Lake.

"This morning, the fire was reported one-half mile from structures on Red Shirt Lake," the update read. "Water-scooping aircraft, retardant tankers and helicopters outfitted with water-dropping buckets are available to support firefighters working on the ground. Three additional firefighting crews are expected to arrive on the fire today. A Type 2 Incident Management Team will assume command of the fire Wednesday morning to coordinate the suppression efforts."

 

Deshka Landing Fire map, Aug. 19, 2019. (Photo: AKFireInfo)

The map above shows the perimeter and location of the fire in relation to homes and cabins to the east. Harrel said hunters are asked to check before hunting in the Willow Swamp area.

"The majority of the fire is located in the area commonly accessed by Deshka Landing Road and Beryozova Drive and fire managers are asking hunters to avoid the area," the update read.

The Nancy Lake Recreation Area is closed and Nancy Lake Parkway is closed beyond the ranger station at mile 1.3, according to Harrel.

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Aug. 20 - 1 p.m.

The Latest: Officials review cause of Parks Highway wildfire

Alaska wildfire officials are reviewing their initial assessment of the cause of a weekend fire that burned at least 50 structures north of Anchorage.

Division of Forestry spokesman Tim Mowry says the cause of the fire along both sides of the Parks Highway is "under investigation."

The fire began Saturday. Fire officials at first said it was believed to have been caused by high wind toppling a tree onto a powerline.

Strong winds with gusts to 35 mph (56 kph) pushed the fire along the Parks Highway corridor for about 7 miles (11.3 kilometers).

Firefighters are also targeting a fire that began Saturday near the Nancy Lake Recreation Area. Mowry says that fire is suspected to be human-caused because no lightning strikes were detected.

The exact cause is not known. The fire has burned nearly 3 square miles (7.7 sq. kilometers).

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Aug. 20 - 12:53 p.m.

Incident management team gives update on Mat-Su wildfires

KTVA's Lauren Maxwell interviews Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team Public Information Officer Kale Casey for the latest update on wildfires in the Mat-Su.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

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Aug. 20 - 12:46 p.m.

Red Cross of Alaska: Animals and pets in the McKinley Fire

The American Red Cross of Alaska posted to their Facebook page a reminder of what to do with your animals and pets when seeking shelter from the McKinley Fire.

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Aug. 20 - 12:34 p.m.

ASD cancels after-school activities

The Anchorage School District has canceled after-school outdoor practices and competitions for Tuesday, Aug. 20 due to air quality conditions. The district says practices can continue if the activities are moved inside.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

More information can be found online on ASD's website.

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Aug. 20 - 12:20 p.m.

FEMA approves federal funds for McKinley Fire

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) authorized federal funding to help with firefighting costs in the Mat-Su for the McKinley Fire.

FEMA said regional administrator Mike O’Hare determined the fire could turn into a major disaster and cause destruction. The agency approved the state’s request for a fire management assistance grant that can be used to pay for field camps, costs associated with equipment and other firefighting activities.

In an emailed statement, Gov. Mike Dunleavy's press secretary Matt Shuckerow said:

"The State of Alaska recently applied and received a FEMA Fire Management Assistance Grant Program (FMAG) declaration, which provides a 75 percent federal cost share for fighting fires until the threat to homes, people and businesses is diminished. [...] We anticipate additional information to be shared by the Department of Natural Resources and the Division of Forestry in the near future."

In addition to the grant, FEMA says $454,432 is available to the state for fire mitigation.

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Aug. 20 - 11:35 a.m.

Air quality remains unhealthy in Anchorage

Air quality remains unhealthy in Anchorage. The forecast offers a little relief despite only slight chances of drizzle this week.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

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Aug. 20 - 11:30 a.m.

Mat-Su School District cancels classes through Friday for certain schools

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District announced on its Facebook page Tuesday that classes in schools affected by multiple wildfires in the area would be cancel for the rest of the week.

The schools closed include:

•     Willow Elementary
•     Talkeetna Elementary
•     Trapper Creek Elementary
•     Susitna Valley Jr/Sr High School
•     Beryozova 

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Aug. 20 - 11:30 a.m.

Mat-Su Borough declares disaster emergency

Mayor Vern Halter has declared a local disaster emergency for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough due to multiple wildfires in the Willow and Caswell areas.

The declaration, which was also signed by Borough Manager John Moosey, says the wildfires are severely threatening life and property, disrupting transportation and tourism and interrupting electrical power and communication for prolonged periods.

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Aug. 20 - 9:24 a.m.

Firefighters working to protect structures near McKinley Fire

In a live update Tuesday, the Alaska Division of Forestry said firefighters are "continuing efforts today to assess and protect structures on the 3,000-acre fire burning between Willow and Caswell."

 

An evacuation order is still in place for those near Mileposts 82 to 91 of the Parks Highway. State officials are working to account for people in the evacuation area.

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Aug. 19 - 8:55 p.m.

DOF releases new estimates for McKinley, Deshka Landing fires

The Alaska Division of Forestry stated the McKinley Fire has reached an estimated 3,000 acres and the nearby Deshka Landing Fire is estimated at 2,000 acres.

John See, spokesperson for DOF, stated neither fire had any containment. 

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Aug. 19 - 7:25 p.m.

Traffic slow-moving along Parks Highway near McKinley Fire

KTVA's Dave Leval gives an update on traffic conditions.

 ___

Aug. 19 - 7:22 p.m.

Red Cross helps shelter those who lost homes in McKinley Fire

Forty-five people spent Sunday night at the Upper Susitna Valley Senior Center Sunday evening and volunteers with the American Red Cross were gearing up for a another crowd on Monday. The center is the official evacuation spot for those on the north side of the McKinley Fire who can't return to their homes.

Matt Cross, a volunteer, said Sunday's crowd included people who lost their homes, those who's homes were safe but they were unable to return to their neighborhoods, as well as a number of tourists who were coming from Denali National Park and were trapped by the road closure.

FULL STORY:  

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Aug. 19 - 6 p.m.

The latest on fires across Southcentral

KTVA reporters share the latest information on multiple Southcentral Alaska wildfires.

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Aug. 19 - 5:55 p.m.

‘There was nothing but flame’: McKinley Fire evacuees face loss, uncertainty

The Eggerman family had just two or three minutes to grab a change of clothes and some food before piling into a mini van and taking off from a camper and the home they were renovating near Mile 86 of the Parks Highway Sunday.

The home started to burn in the rearview mirror as they drove away.

“My daughter and I both cried,” said Dorothy Eggerman, “So we just kept going, kept going, we stopped again we looked back, there was nothing but flame.”

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Aug. 19 - 5:24 p.m.

DOF gives live update on McKinley Fire

Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team Public Information Officer Kale Casey said there's still a lot of fire activity on the Parks Highway.

Pilot cars are running from mile 71 to 99 and there's no way to know how long the delay will be. Casey said drivers should top off their gas tanks before heading out on the road.

When following the pilot cars, Casey said to stay in line and don't turn off the road to check on structures. There is no re-entry for at least the next 24 hours.

About 50 structures have been lost in the fire so far, though exact numbers won't be confirmed until Tuesday when the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Emergency Management will be in for structure assessment.

Questions about the McKinley or Deshka Fires, or about the status of your structure, should be directed to the Mat-Su Area Forestry Information Hotline at 907-761-6233.

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough is also asking people to call 907-861-8326 to confirm they have evacuated from the McKinley Fire.

The borough will need the following information:

  • Full names
  • Addresses and number of people in each home
  • Ages, dates of birth
  • Next of kin
  • Contact number

The call center is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to take down people's information.

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Aug. 19 - 5:22 p.m.

Video shows damage along the highway near Sheep Creek Lodge

 

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Aug. 19 - 5:20 p.m.

Power out near Caswell as MEA de-energizes lines  

The Matanuska Electric Association posted an update on its Facebook page to alert users that 446 members are without power due to fire activity. The company said it de-energized the lines in the area and is working to make repairs to be able to restore power as soon as possible once given clearance to do so from fire officials.

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Aug. 19 - 5:06 p.m.

Deshka Landing Fire at 1,800 acres as air attack continues 

Fire crews are working to protect cabins on Red Shirt Lake should the growing Deshka Landing Fire make it that far south. The fire was estimated at 1,800 acres Monday morning, according to an online update.

The smaller of two fires near the Parks Highway is five miles west of the road near mile 68; 15 miles south of the McKinley Fire. 

More than 100 people were working the fire Monday morning. Air tankers and helicopters were dropping retardant and water in the area to create containment lines and protect subdivisions and cabins nearby. According the Alaska Division of Forestry, crews from the Lower 48 are expected to arrive Tuesday to assist. 

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Aug. 19 - 4:53 p.m.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

  

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Aug. 19 - 2:51 p.m.

Mat-Su Borough School District issue school closures for Aug. 20

The Mat-Su Borough School District has closed the following schools due to ongoing fire danger in the area:

  • Willow Elementary
  • Talkeetna Elementary
  • Trapper Creek Elementary
  • Susitna Valley Jr/Sr High School
  • Beryozova School

 

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Aug. 19 - 1:49 p.m.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

___

Aug. 19 - 12:57 p.m.

 
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___

Aug. 19 - 12:52 p.m.

Mat-Su Borough asks people to confirm they have evacuated

The Matanuska-Susitna Borough is asking people to contact 907-861-8326 to confirm they have evacuated from the McKinley Fire.

The borough will need the following information:

  • Full names
  • Addresses and number of people in each home
  • Ages, dates of birth
  • Next of kin
  • Contact number

The call center is open from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. to take down people's information.

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Aug. 19 - 12:13 p.m.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

___

Aug. 19 - 10:25 a.m.

Alaska Railroad cancels service due to McKinley Fire 

Passenger service between Anchorage and Denali National Park is canceled due to the McKinley Fire north of Willow, the Alaska Railroad said Monday morning.

The fire jumped the railroad tracks Saturday night near milepost 205 and is continuing to burn on both sides of the tracks. Burned trees have fallen on the tracks and crews are working to remove the trees and monitor the situation, ARRC said.

"Approximately 200 Alaska Railroad passengers were transported by motor coach from Anchorage to Denali and Talkeetna on Sunday with another 150 expected to be moved north by motor coach today," ARRC said.

Another 140 passengers traveling southbound from Fairbanks, Denali, and Talkeetna were rerouted to Fairbanks by motor coach, ARRC said. The passengers were delayed due to closures on the Parks Highway.

"Those passengers along with an additional 100 passengers will be moved south by motor coach today, dependent on Parks Highway openings," ARRC said.

The railroad expects to continue using their motor coach service through Tuesday.

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Aug. 19 - 9:30 a.m.

McKinley Fire estimated to be 2,000 acres, crews from Lower 48 arriving Monday

The Division of Forestry estimates the McKinley Fire is about 2,000 acres, DOF wrote in an update posted on AK Fire Info. The division is working to contain the fire on both sides of the Parks Highway between mileposts 82 and 91. 

The highway is still open to one-lane traffic with pilot cars from mileposts 71 to 99. DOF says the Alaska National Guard and Alaska State Troopers are helping with traffic control and fire suppression.

Crews and resources from the Lower 48 should arrive on Monday to help with the McKinley Fire and other fires in Southcentral. 

"Ten hotshot crews, two air retardant tankers and four water-scooping aircraft have arrived or are en route," DOF said.

There is still an evacuation order along both sides of the highway from mileposts 82 to 91. DOF says anyone in the area should leave their homes immediately.

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Aug. 19 - 8 a.m.

Parks Highway open to one-lane traffic with pilot cars but may close anytime

The Parks Highway is open to one-lane traffic, according to an update from the Alaska Division of Forestry on AK Fire Info. There are pilot cars between mileposts 71 and 99. 

DOF said the road could be closed anytime due to fire activity. Drivers should expect delays. 

Forestry says there is zero visibility with active flames on both sides of the road. They are asking drivers to keep an eye out for firefighting crews and equipment on the roadway.

Traffic updates will continue to be posted on 511.alaska.gov.

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Aug. 19 - 12:05 a.m.

At least 50 structures burned in fast-moving McKinley Fire

The Alaska Division of Forestry is reporting at least 50 structures have been lost following "a dramatic increase in fire intensity" on the McKinley Fire near the Parks Highway. 

According to an online update late Sunday night, fire crews and first responders worked Sunday to evacuate residents threatened by the fire. DOF and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough are trying to account for residents who chose not to evacuate or utilize one of the shelters provided.

DOF, borough and the Red Cross did not have an exact count or specific details about structures.

The Parks Highway remained closed between miles 70–99 as of 11 p.m.; there was no estimate for when it would be reopened.

The latest size estimate on the fire was approximately 1,800 acres as of 10 p.m. Sunday. The fire was started Saturday afternoon when a tree was blown onto a power line near mile 91 of the Parks Highway, according to DOF's online update late Sunday night.

A Type 2 incident management team has been assigned to the fire and will take command Tuesday. 

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Aug. 18 - 11:30 p.m.

Parks Highway closures extended

Closures on the Parks Highway due to the McKinley Fire now stretch from Willow Fishhook Road near mile 70 to East Helena Drive near mile 99. The closure, announced just before 11 p.m. Sunday by Alaska State Troopers, is expected to last until at least late Monday morning.

People traveling between Anchorage and Fairbanks should use alternate routes on the Glenn, Richardson and Denali highways. 

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Aug. 18 - 11:15 p.m.

Power restored for most people

Municipal Light & Power reported they restored power for most customers around 5 p.m. except for those affected by the outages on Northern Lights. 

Chugach Electric said large outages were restored by 6 p.m. A crew flew to Tyonek at 5 p.m. to work on the outages there and were able to restore power by 10:15 p.m. Sunday.

Matanuska Electric Association wrote after 11 p.m. that less than 500 customers were still without power. MEA said crews were in Caswell waiting to receive fire clearance to restore power. They also have crews working to remove trees on lines throughout MEA's service territory.

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Aug. 18 - 9 p.m.

Firefighters turn focus to protecting structures on Deshka Landing Fire

Crews working the Deshka Landing Fire were pulling back to protect cabins on Red Shirt Lake and secure the eastern edge of the fire to prevent it from advancing toward subdivisions on Long Lake Road. According to an online update from the Division of Forestry, the decision was made out of concern for firefighter safety and increased fire activity.

The fire was estimated at 450 acres as of 4:30 p.m. Sunday. It was being pushed south by winds and was approaching South Rolly Lake Campground.

"Like the McKinley Fire burning about 20 miles to the north, high winds have intensified fire activity and fire behavior has become extreme," DOF wrote.

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Aug. 18 - 7 p.m.

Several agencies in Anchorage and the Valley are dealing with multiple wildfires and power outages Sunday.

There were nearly a dozen fires in the Mat-Su on Saturday, some that burned on into Sunday. Fires near the Parks Highway prompted evacuations and caused road closures due to visibility.

Fires in the Mat-Su

Two wildfires were burning about 20 miles apart near the Parks Highway close to Willow and Talkeetna, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry.

The McKinley Fire is burning near mile 91 of the Parks Highway while the Deshka Landing Fire is burning near mile 68, about four miles west of the highway.

Both fires burned through the night and continue to be difficult for firefighters to contain with extremely dry, windy conditions. 

The McKinley Fire was holding steady around 150 acres burned as of 2 p.m. Sunday, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry. Around 6:30 p.m. Sunday the fire jumped from the east side of the Parks Highway to the west side, prompting the DOF and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough to issue evacuations for both sides of the highway between miles 82–93.

"All residents in that area should leave their homes immediately. Additional evacuations are anticipated and residents in the area should monitor the fire’s progress via social media. The wind-driven fire is moving very rapidly and the situation is evolving," an online update from DOF stated.

Traffic heading north is being stopped at mile 70 due to safety concerns. Parks Highway between Mileposts 83-93 is closed indefinitely. People are advised to stay away from the area.

The Deshka Fire began at 2:30 p.m. Friday, and is now estimated between 600 and 1,000 acres, according to DOF.

Causes of the fires are unknown at this time. The Division of Forestry said previously it was believed wind gusts knocked down a power line which sparked the fire. However, DOF and borough officials said it's too early to tell and they remain focused on getting the fires contained.

School closures

The Matanuska-Susitna School District announced Sunday evening it will close four schools Monday due to increased fire danger.

•     Willow Elementary
•     Talkeetna Elementary
•     Trapper Creek Elementary
•     Susitna Valley Jr/Sr High School

Evacuations

As of Sunday morning, no structures were reported to have burned in either fire, DOF stated in an online update.

Multiple evacuations are in place: 

•     the areas both east and west of the Parks Highway from mileposts 82 to 93 
•     the first mile of Hidden Hills Road off of milepost 88 Parks Highway
•     all homes on Hidden Hills Road / Caswell Lakes Area

For those displaced south of mile 88, an evacuation center was established at the Willow Community Center at mile 69. Red Cross of Alaska staff operating the center says about 35 people spent Saturday night.

A second evacuation center had been established at the Upper Susitna Senior Center at 16463 Helena Avenue off the Parks Highway across from Susitna Valley High School.

At 6:43 p.m. the borough announced a southern shelter had been set up at the Menard Sports Center in Wasilla at 1001 S. Clapp St.

The centers are open around the clock should further evacuations be necessary.

Traffic delays

Drivers were advised to expect major traffic delays along the Parks Highway between mile 87 and 94. As of 2 p.m., the road was closed to one lane with a pilot car leading vehicles though the area.

As of 6:41 p.m. Sunday, DOF announced northbound traffic was stopped at mile 70 and the Parks Highway between miles 83–93 is closed indefinitely. 

Officials are urging people to stay away from the area.

Mirror Lake brush fire

 
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The Anchorage Fire Department and multiple agencies responded to a brush fire at Mirror Lake in Chugiak Sunday afternoon. The fire was at Camp Gorsuch between North Peters Creek and Eklutna. 

Clifton Dalton, Assistant Fire Chief for Chugiak Volunteer Fire and Rescue Company, said firefighters were responding to a separate fire in Mirror Lake when they noticed a plume of black smoke. Dalton says the fire was burning wood and moving quickly due to winds. About 15 units from Chugiak responded and requested assistance from AFD, the Division of Forestry and Central Mat-Su Fire Department.

By 1:18 p.m., AFD said the fire was under control and crews stayed to put out hot spots. There were no reports of damaged or destroyed structures. 

High winds and weather conditions

 
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Fire crews have noted dry conditions and high winds increased fire activity at Swan Lake Fire. The fire moved across the Sterling Highway and troopers closed the highway from milepost 53 to milepost 75.

Wind gusts are expected to be 20 to 40 mph in Southcentral — 41 mph in Anchorage, 37 mph in Palmer and 23 mph in Talkeetna. The wind gusts are moving smoke through the region. Winds at Swan Lake Fire are up to 50 mph but are expected to die down overnight.

Rain is not likely in the near future. Dry conditions are fueling the fires and Anchorage is in a severe drought.

High winds in the Kenai Peninsula and Anchorage should be calmer around 5 to 7 p.m. Sunday. The Mat-Su will continue to have winds up to 20 to 25 mph until about 9 p.m.

Winds should be calm Monday morning in Southcentral with the exception of the Mat-Su where winds will calm down later that afternoon.

Thousands impacted by power outages

Matanuska Electric Association, Municipal Light & Power and the Chugach Electric Association all reported power outages Sunday. 

As of 12:40 p.m. MEA said there were 1,470 people without service. 

According to a Facebook post, an outage occurred in the Knik Goose Bay around 2:30 a.m. which affected 89 people. A cause for the power outage hasn't been determined and MEA has not said when power will be restored.

MEA says there is another outage in the Caswell area.

"The Caswell Area Outage impacting 449 members we are trying to access the area where we know trees have fallen on the lines," MEA wrote. "We’ve also had to [de-energize] lines in this area due to the fire."

Chugach Electric Association reported a power outage at 6:51 a.m affecting the Spenard area. They said crews found a large tree fell in the line and estimated repairs would take up to four hours.

The electric company reported another outage in the Sand Lake Area west of the Seward Highway between Dowling Road and Dimond Boulevard.

 
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Around 2:30 p.m., Chugach Electric said 600 customers were experiencing outages throughout Anchorage and Tyonek. 

"Once again today, the winds are causing problems across our service territory," Chugach Electric wrote. "We are managing multiple outages, and will continue to update when there is new information."

Fallen trees due to wind caused isolated outages for Municipal Light & Power customers. ML&P said customers in the Fairview area, parts of Northern Lights and Fireweed and W. 6th Avenue were affected.

Power was restored by 1:20 p.m. for customers in Fairview and by 2:50 p.m. for most customers in Fireweed and Northern Lights. Power was restored to W. 6th Avenue but ML&P reported a new outage was confirmed for Rogers Park.

KTVA has comprehensive coverage across Southcentral. Check back here as the story develops and get live updates from the KTVA Facebook page.

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