McKinley, Deshka Landing fires: Small but close to human settlements - Must Read Alaska
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Monday, September 23, 2019
HomeThe 907McKinley, Deshka Landing fires: Small but close to human settlements

McKinley, Deshka Landing fires: Small but close to human settlements

For as much damage, smoke and inconvenience it has caused, the McKinley Fire had only encompassed 3,012 acres by Monday.

Firefighters focused on protecting buildings and infrastructure along the Parks Highway, where an evacuation order is in effect from Milepost 82-91. Anchorage and other parts of Southcentral Alaska experienced smoke-filled air with conditions categorized as unhealthy.

Additional resources were on the scene by Monday evening, with a dozen fire engines from Fairbanks and two crews from the Lower 48 expected to arrive on Tuesday. With the additional resources, the Alaska Type 2 Interagency Incident Management Team will be adding night shifts to patrol subdivisions in the fire area.

The McKinley Fire, which began Saturday near Milepost 91 of the Parks Highway when a tree, pushed by strong north winds, fell onto a power line. The wind fueled the flames, burning along both sides of the Parks Highway for seven miles, and consuming 50 structures in its path.

Traffic is moving slowly with the help of pilot cars along the Parks Highway between Milepost 71-99, with long delays and occasional highway closures. Alaska State Troopers and the Alaska National Guard are assisting with traffic control efforts.

The Alaska Railroad cancelled service from Fairbanks to Denali National Park while it removes trees and other debris from the tracks. Service is expected to resume on Wednesday.

The State Fire Marshal’s Office and Alaska State Troopers are working to account for persons in the evacuation area. If you know of persons who may be unaccounted for, contact the Mat-Su Borough call center at 907-861-8326.

The Interagency Incident Management Team produced this “Break it Down”:

DESHKA LANDING FIRE

The Deshka Landing Fire, which also started Saturday afternoon, is burning about five miles west of the Parks Highway near Mile 68, just south of West Deshka Landing Road and west of Nancy Lake Parkway.

Air support dropped retardants on the western flank of the fire to keep it from reaching a large area of fuel.

Ten smokejumpers focused their attention on removing brush and trees around approximately 45 cabins surrounding Red Shirt Lake, south of the fire, while also plumbing the cabins with pumps, hose and sprinklers to protect them if the fire gains steam and continues south. The smokejumpers utilized a boat to access the cabins.

More help will arrive late Tuesday in the form of three hotshot crews from the Lower 48 that will be flying into Alaska, as well as another helicopter that will be used for water drops and logistical support to transport crews and supplies. Another two crews are expected to arrive from the Lower 48 on Wednesday.

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Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.

Latest comments

  • Suzanne,
    Your statement:
    “Fire had only encompassed 3,012 acres by Monday.”
    Seems a bit absurd to me.
    This fire was initially considered “contained” at 150 acres and borough fire officials (like Ken Barkley) decided to pull resources off this fire for others.
    (A huge mistake)
    This was well documented in their own press conference (on sunday at the Mat Su borough) and throughout the media like KTUU.
    Then the winds picked up that afternoon and the fire grew to over 3,000 acres while taking out over 50 structures (in less than 12 hours).
    Obviously a fire this large in a residential areas is a very serious matter…hence the 200 hotshots now on scene from the outside with another 100 more called up.
    You were more on the right path suggesting the super tanker but obviously the bureaucrats want more money for per deim at their “special sessions” which makes them all seem so darn “special” these days.

    • For Pete’s sake Steve, what do Legislators have to do with either super tankers or their per diem, since it was Dunleavy that called them into the third special session? You need to run for some post so’s you can be on the committee that makes all these decisions-then everything will run smoothly. Heheh!

      • Bill,
        If I honestly thought I could make a difference in this corrupt system of government that rewards special interest groups and cuts benifits for the most vulnerable in the state I would gladly “run for a post”.
        As it stands the Legislature (by rejecting the Ethics Bill passed last year) has made it clear that lobbyists are more important than the general public and ethical procedures does not mean squat.
        Each special session costs Alaskans an additional $1 million or more…that $1 million could pay for 4 days of the “super tanker” up here in Willow.
        For a Governor who ran on limiting government, Dunleavy sure has done his part to keep on extending these sessions all summer long.
        We knew the majority wanted a $1,600 PFD months ago…and what do you see…they got what they wanted.
        I am smack dab in the middle of 2 large fires with a combined total of 5,000 acres burning with ZERO percent contained at this point.
        What we get are National Guard roadblocks and “shelter in place” while thick smoke fills our air every day.
        Forgive me for being fed up with the Bureaucrats B.S. for I think another special session is a total waste of state funds….especially as the Mat Su borough just declared a state of emergency in Willow.
        We already know everyone’s stance down in Juneau and that will not change.
        I have more respect for the “boots on the ground” fighting this fire than the union and oil field puppets down in Juneau that masquerade as “leaders” hiden in their “chambers” far from the front lines of change.

        • Steve, you are excused for being in the thick of it right now but frankly these fires are not a big part of Alaska’s issues IMO. For someone in the middle of them I know my thinking doesn’t hold much water but I see it as not a lot different that when the fires come to WA, for example, and a bunch of homes (built in those forests) go up in flames during a hot dry Summer.
          We have some political issues that will be handled by Legislature and the Governor, in spite of the Recall effort coming up. Alaska’s politics has always been interesting and this special session moving into the regular session in January should be a hoot.
          Best of luck to you with those fires.
          I’ll tell what a BLM official told me when I was concerned about a fire near my cabin North of Fbks: He said they will save my cabin (on a lake) for me but I might not want it after it’s in the middle of a burn.

        • I agree with you. I am also in between the same two fires and very sick from smoke. This is awful. There is no place we can go to get away from it either. Well unless we evacuate the state. I don’t like pointing fingers but I blame MEA for not clearing their easements.

          • Darla,
            You are correct on the overgrown ROW’s associated with powerlines in the Upper Valley.
            I would bet a subpoena of records would show MEA is backed up years on “line clearing”.
            Luckily for Alaskans the Interagency Command was able to get nearly 300 firefighters deployed to this disaster.
            If the Governor would support Mat Su borough’s declaration then more federal funding would be available.
            Casey just said today that this fire will not be out until it snows (and neither will the Deshka).
            Let’s hope the winds do not reignite the moving crown fire we saw on Sunday.
            Sadly these devastating fires will be more frequent and later in the season as our state warms at twice the rate as the rest of the world.

    • Good grief. No one foresaw the wind. It was completely unusual and I am not aware of any advanced forecasting. Had it not occurred the fire would likely be out by now. Perhaps you should be in charge Steve? ?

      • Elizabeth,
        Apparently you are unaware of how bad of a fire season it has been?
        Over 2.5 million acres have burnt so far and the end is no where in sight.
        “There’s nothing happening this summer that wasn’t predicted by climate scientists… It doesn’t feel normal, but what’s normal is changing.”
        (KTOO reported)
        “In a warming environment, this kind of thing is going to go from a once in a lifetime to maybe a once in a decade kind of thing,” he said.
        Actually since the Sockeye Fire was in 2015…I would say once every five years at this point.
        Too bad our Governor disbanded the state climate response team…

  • WE NEED MORE FIRE PREVENTION AND FIRE BREAKS CUT THROUGH LOCAL FORESTS!

  • It seems this hot, dry summer has left a few grumpy and surly.

  • With hundreds of millions of dead trees throughout the interior and on the Kenai Peninsula I wonder if anyone is considering logging them before they have no commercial value. It would be a huge economic boost to a state that no one can argue is struggling with revenues. My guess, sadly, is that by the time everyone is done arguing about it the opportunity will have passed.

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