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Firefighters focus on two Interior Alaska wildfires, Parks Highway constricted

Laurel Andrews
Crews battle Alaska’s most pressing wildfires while dry, hot weather continues beating down on the Interior. Meanwhile, the massive Chisana fire near the Canadian border has been stifled by heavy rains. Pictured is the Skinny's Road Fire near the Parks Highway. Alaska Division of Forestry photo

Smoke continues to plague the Interior city of Fairbanks and crews battle the state’s most pressing wildfires as dry, hot weather beats down on the Interior. Traffic is moving through the Parks Highway after a brief closure, and the massive Chisana fire near the Canadian border has been stifled by heavy rains.

While 116 fires are burning across the state “a lot of focus right now is on two fires of significance,” said Alaska Fire Service and Division of Forestry spokesperson Michelle Weston, the Skinny's Road fire outside of Fairbanks and a group of 7 fires near Tok named the Moon Complex.

“Today we’re expecting 80 degrees toward the border, so the Eastern Interior is our concern,” Weston said.

Fire watches are in place for Copper River Basin, areas around Denali, Delta Junction and the northern slope of the eastern Alaska Range due to strong wind which could increase fire activity.  

“Everybody’s watching everything pretty carefully because of the wind,” Weston said.

Sixteen of the active fires are staffed. So far this season, 410 fires have burned 808,079 acres.

Skinny’s Road Fire

As of Sunday, the Skinny’s Road Fire is 40 percent contained, as 269 personnel continue to fight the human-caused fire west of Fairbanks near the world-famous Skinny Dick’s Halfway Inn on the Parks Highway.

The Parks Highway is open after closing briefly last week, with pilot cars being used between Milepost 322 to Milepost 332, between 6 a.m. and midnight. No pilot cars are needed at night because fire activity quiets in the evening, Weston said.

The fire has burned 1,401 acres since starting on June 25.

Unfortunately, smoke from the fire continues to plague the Interior city. “It’s just the way the weather pattern is,” Weston said. Smoke is expected to linger over the city into the week.

Air quality is listed as “unhealthy” by the Department of Health. People with respiratory or heart disease and the elderly and children should avoid spending long periods of time doing outdoor activities, and healthy adults should limit their outdoor activities.

Moon Complex

Six in-state fire crews and two California teams are battling a group of fires in the Tok area.

The Moon Complex is comprised of 7 active fires that have burned a total of 24,839 acres. Two are staffed: The Moon Lake fire and Tetlin Junction fire, both of which were caused by lightning.

Moon Lake has burned 9,076 acres, as 159 personnel work to control the fire. A sparse amount of rain yesterday helped to slow the fire’s activity.

The Tetlin Junction Ridge fire has burned 1,620 acres. Personnel are arriving in Tok today to fight the fire.

The Alaska Highway remains open, unaffected by the fires.

Chisana

The massive Chisana River Fire in the Eastern Interior has slowed thanks to heavy rains. The fire, started by lightning on May 31, has burned around 49,950 acres in the Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Tetlin National Wildlife Refuge.

A Canadian team helping to battle the blaze has disbanded following the rain. No homes or infrastructure are threatened by the fire. The Alaska Division of Forestry is monitoring the situation.

Lime Hills

A huge fire is burning near the Stony River, on the west side of the Alaska Range.

The Lime Hills fire has burned 234,644 acres. “The reason the fire is so big is because it’s allowed to burn,” Weston said, as it is located in a “limited” fire service area. Lime Village and any additional cabins and properties are being protected by 51 personnel staffing the fire.  

A complete list of all fire activity in the state can be found at the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center website.

Contact Laurel Andrews at laurel(at)alaskadispatch.com