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Stories from the fires


Friday, July 5, just after 8 am, Anchorage police officers saw black smoke and flames in a wooded area near the intersection of Elmore Road and E. Tudor Road.

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Between the police, Anchorage Fire Department and the wildfire crew that was mopping up the urban forest fire from earlier this week (called the MLK Fire), the fire was contained, and Kevin Slats, age 50, was arrested for starting it.

The exact cause of the Friday fire is under investigation.

Anchorage officials have not yet revealed the cause of the Tuesday MLK Fire, which emptied out a few neighborhoods before it was contained at about 30 acres on July 2.

But the area where the MLK Fire started is an area littered with unkempt and unsafe encampments that are occupied by various sorts of people, some down on their luck, many with criminal backgrounds and drug or alcohol addictions. Anchorage’s drug-and-crime encampments are a growing concern that city leaders call a homeless problem.

A burn ban has been in effect and all fireworks were cancelled throughout the municipality. Mayor Ethan Berkowitz recorded a public service announcement declaring the fireworks and burn ban, which includes a ban on bon fires, campfires, open flame cooking fires (except barbecues), portable outdoor fireplaces, fixed/built in outdoor fire places, grass or yard debris burning, and other heat sources that could start a grass or wildland fire.

But the camps don’t have televisions, generally, and some of the people living in the woods in Anchorage may not understand the seriousness of the fire danger. Kevin Slats, the man arrested in connection with the fire, has a long list of priors, including assault, shoplifting, and standing in the roadway obstructing traffic.

The fire took place in the vicinity of the Anchorage Police Department’s headquarters on Elmore, a mile and a quarter from the July 2 MLK Fire.


Must Read Alaska has learned that two women evacuated themselves out of the smoky woods on July 2 and perched themselves in back of the Alaska State Crime Lab, on MLK Ave., where they were discovered by a passing Trooper as they were shooting up heroin. They had evidently been living in the woods and had in their possession several wigs, masks, burglary tools, stolen coins, meth, and heroin. Their probation officers were called because Anchorage Police were too busy with the fire, and the probation officers took them into custody.

Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
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.


  1. As I first read here and was repeated about a week ago, the plan Catholic Social Services had was to close Clare House for day services. Now, it’s BFS; the last day for day services there will be Monday. Brace for more of whatever on the streets.

  2. I think it is just awesome that folks left the fireworks alone, at least in our hood. We are in Sand lake and there are lots of standing dead spruce. Thanks

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