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Not as bad as last year, but blazes burn up central Alaska as they near pipeline, buildings

Posted: June 4, 2011 - 9:18pm

ANCHORAGE — More than 300 firefighters aided by boats and airplanes battled on Saturday to protect structures and an oil pipeline from a 7,350-acre blaze burning near Fairbanks.

The blaze is one of 46 active fires the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center reported Saturday morning.

AICC spokesman Bernie Pineda said the blaze in Hastings, just northeast of Fairbanks, was fueled by strong winds late Friday. The blaze began with a lighting strike Monday and continues to burn between the Chatanika River and Washington Creek west of the Elliott Highway.

The fire is a threat to cabins along the Chatanika. The Hayes Subdivision, with more than a dozen homes, lies five miles to the east, with the trans-Alaska pipeline another mile or so away.

There have been more than 288 fires this season, which have collectively burned nearly 198,000 acres statewide, according to the AICC. That’s fewer than the 350 fires and 542,501 acres burned by this time last year.

“Compared to last year, we’re somewhat down,” Pineda said.

Pineda said Alaska’s fire season lasts from April to July but got a late start this year.

The AICC also reported that the East Volkmar fire 15 miles northwest of Fairbanks has grown to 34,000 acres. Winds spread the fire toward the Goodpaster River, where there are homes and cabins. Firefighters from Oregon took command Saturday. It is 8 percent contained.

Crews were also mopping up a 34-acre fire at Anaconda Creek, northeast of Fairbanks. That fire is 100 percent contained.

“We’re in a position here in Alaska where resources are plentiful,” Pineda said. “We’re still holding our own at this point.”

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