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Wetter weather brings relief from Alaska wildfires

Posted: June 4, 2013 - 12:04am
This June 2, 2013 photo released by Alaska Division of Forestry shows the Bitter Creek Fire east of Tok, Alaska. A forest fire 60 miles east of Tok has grown to about 1,000 acres and is creating smoke that likely will be noticed by drivers on the Alaska Highway. The state Division of Forestry says the Bitter Creek Fire started from lightning. (AP Photo/Alaska Division of Forestry, Bruce Smith)  Bruce Smith
Bruce Smith
This June 2, 2013 photo released by Alaska Division of Forestry shows the Bitter Creek Fire east of Tok, Alaska. A forest fire 60 miles east of Tok has grown to about 1,000 acres and is creating smoke that likely will be noticed by drivers on the Alaska Highway. The state Division of Forestry says the Bitter Creek Fire started from lightning. (AP Photo/Alaska Division of Forestry, Bruce Smith)

ANCHORAGE — Wetter, cooler weather was giving crews a welcome reprieve on Monday at many of the 40 active wildfires in the state, fire managers said.

The weather, however, was expected to warm up again by Thursday, said state Division of Forestry spokeswoman Sarah Saarloos.

Among the blazes slowed by rain was the Bitter Creek fire 60 miles east of the community of Tok that had quickly burned through dry black spruce on Sunday.

The fire was sparked by lightning on Friday and had burned close to a mile north of the Alaska Highway. The highway remained open, but motorists were warned to watch for equipment and crews.

Fire managers said the fire had charred about 3 1/2 square miles, a figure that was downsized from the previous estimate of nearly eight miles.

There have been 150 fires in Alaska this year, with more than 66 square miles burned. In the vast state, some fires are so remote that they are not suppressed, and others are just monitored.

Among the active fires not being fought was a 1 1/2-square-mile blaze in a remote area of Denali National Park and Preserve.

Larry Weddle, a National Park Service fire management officer, said the closest weather station from the fire is 40 miles away. He said precipitation was recorded at that weather station, as well as two others in the area, so it was believed that rain has fallen on that fire.

There are cabins and other structures on state land five miles from the fire, but a large braiding of rocks and river runs between the fire and the buildings, he said.

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