Update: McKinley Fire consumes 50 structures - Must Read Alaska
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Monday, September 23, 2019
HomeThe 907Update: McKinley Fire consumes 50 structures

Update: McKinley Fire consumes 50 structures

According to the Division of Forestry, the McKinley Fire near Mile 88 of the Parks Highway has burned an estimated 50 structures by Sunday afternoon, with emergency and firefighters working to evacuate residents and rescue people threatened by the fire.

The fire began when strong north winds toppled a tree into a power line. The wind drove the the fire from the east side of the Parks Highway to the west side at around 6 pm., prompting immediate evacuations on both sides of the highway from Mileposts 82 to 91.

Firefighters from Forestry, local fire departments and Alaska State Troopers assisted with evacuation efforts and the Alaska Division of Forestry and Matanuska-Susitna Borough personnel are still working to account for residents who chose not to evacuate their homes or go to an evacuation shelter.

Forestry, borough and Red Cross officials are working to determine how many structures were lost but specific details about structures that burned are not currently available.

The Parks Highway was closed between Wasilla-Fishhook Road at milepost 71.25 on the south and the Upper Susitna Senior Center on Helena Avenue at approximately milepost 98.5 on the north. The highway remained closed as of 11 pm. There was no timetable for when the road will be reopened at the time of this report.

The latest size estimate on the fire was approximately 1,800 acres as of 10 pm Sunday.

Evacuation shelters have been established north and south of the Parks Highway closure. The shelter on the south end is located at the Menard Sports Complex in Wasilla and the shelter on the north end of the closure is at the Upper Susitna Senior Center at approximately Mile 98.5.

[Evacuation map here]

The fire was started Saturday afternoon when a tree was blown onto a power line near Mile 91 of the Parks Highway. The fire grew to about 150 acres overnight and burned up to the Parks Highway but remained east of the highway. That changed late Sunday afternoon when strong winds and warm, dry conditions fueled extreme fire behavior that prevented suppression efforts and forced firefighters to focus their efforts on evacuating residents and protecting structures threatened by the fire.

A Type 2 Incident Management Team from Alaska will be taking command of the McKinley Fire on Tuesday and two more incident management teams from the Lower 48 are enroute to take over management of the Deshka Landing Fire and Swan Lake Fire.

With the increase in wildfire activity in Southcentral Alaska the past two days, Forestry is also bringing up multiple other resources from the Lower 48 to assist with containment of fires. Ten hotshot crews are enroute to Alaska and should arrive Monday afternoon. Those crews will be split among the three fires listed above. Two air retardant tankers and four water-scooping aircraft are also enroute to Alaska.

The fire is still moving quickly and firefighting personnel are stretched thin. Little firefighting occurred on Sunday night after dark, but is picking up at first light on Monday.

If you are in the fire area and have evacuated and are safe, communicate with your relatives or mark your “safe” status on Facebook so people will not search for you.

[Read: Alaska Life Hack: What areas are closed due to fire]

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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

  • “The fire is still moving quickly and firefighting personnel are stretched thin.”
    It was a BIG mistake made when borough officials and state forestry considered this fire “contained” a day ago…just watch the borough press conference on FB.
    KTUU reported just a day ago:
    “No structures are currently being threatened, according to the Borough…
    The Mile 91 Parks Highway fire off Yancey and Merlin Drives is fully contained and crews have been released to assist with other actives fires.”
    Well then Sunday afternoon winds picked up before sunset and over 50 structures are lost with many more threatened?
    Not having ANY full time fire personnel (other than an appointed chief from out of the area) in a census district over 600 square miles large in Willow does not help either…
    Mat Su borough needs to hire more firefighters period…this is another devastating summer in Willow.
    Too bad the Governor does not believe in Climate Change…LOL.

    • Your solution, big gov’t , more money, right? Bottomless pit?
      More of this and that?
      How about people act to save themselves and their property?
      Gov’t is going to hold your hand, wipe your nose and your posterior for you always?
      If people exercised common sense and cut the brush back away from their houses and barns, garages, whatever, 2 tree lengths, odds are, their property would be safe.
      My grandfather had that rule.
      He was born in TX and lived in NM and AZ where the state impressed entire towns to fight fires.

  • Steve – Climate change? You had to go there? The fire was caused by high winds, dude. High winds are common at this time of year. The winds took down a tree that took down a power line. Nothing to do with climate change.

    • The initial combustion was indeed caused by the windstorm/ powerlines but the rapid spreading is caused more by “changes” in our climate and the environment.
      An unseasonably dry and hot summer combined with large stands of beetle kill spruce are “exacerbating” the rapid spread and devastation of this wildfire…of which akfireinfo.com is now saying has grown to 3,000 acres.
      “The forestry service said warm, dry conditions “fueled extreme fire behavior” on Sunday afternoon, and the wildfire jumped the highway, leading to evacuations on both sides between mile markers 82 and 91…
      Alaska has been baking under record-high temperatures and dry conditions this summer.
      July was the hottest month ever on record for the state.”
      (Weather. Com)
      Let’s hope the winds stay calm for the crews battling this blaze.
      Their help is a greatly appreciated at these critical moments.

      • The cause was the spruce beetle kill that started in 1976.
        The greenies sued the state and BLM to halt any attempt to log out those stands of dead spruce, which would have made paper products.
        The state needs to sue the greenies for the cost of this fire.
        The worst is yet to come.

  • Lousy info from the fire department where the fire is!!

  • The news keeps reporting that the fires are out and then we get this all summer!

  • Everyone has given their opinion as to why. Here’s a thought, instead of talking, get in there and help, donate food time animal care, just help instead of kvetching.

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