For some hotshots, McKinley Fire is personal
As the sun rises over Willow, so does the next crew working the McKinley Fire. After just a few hours of rest — either in tents or on the ground — and a little breakfast, it's back to work on a familiar fire line for Palmer's Pioneer Peak Interagency Hotshot Crew.
"We have some folks that live up here, some of our folks' family members are directly affected by what's going on up here," said Kris Baumgartner, superintendent of the 22-member team that's now working alongside nearly 300 other firefighters on the McKinley fire.
The Pioneer Peak hotshots arrived Monday, after being pulled from work on a fire near Tazlina Lake.
Some of the crew worked the Sockeye Fire that burned near this area four years ago.
"We were on Sockeye as well so it reminded me a lot of Sockeye but worse it seemed," Baumgartner said.
McKinley is worse, Baumgartner says, because more buildings were burned. According to the director of Matanuska-Susitna Borough Emergency Services Ken Barkley says 51 homes, 80 outbuildings and three businesses have been lost in the Fire.
The hotshots have been focused on holding the southern perimeter of the fire near mile 84 of the Parks Highway.
"We have our chain saws out in front and then cutting a swath through the brush and trees," Baumgartner explained.
There are also several homes inside the fire zone that the hotshots are working to protect. Backup is on its way — about 100 more firefighters have been called in.
The hotshots hit the road in the road in high gear, ready for another 16-hour shift to secure progress that's already been made.
"We have quite a bit of open line out here, but we're making progress each and every day — little victories every day," Baumgartner said.
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