Smoke still bothering drivers south of Fairbanks

Traffic follows a pilot car at Mile 325 Parks Highway Thursday afternoon, June 27, 2013, through the smoke from Skinny's Road Fire. A back fire was started along side the highway 30 miles south of Fairbanks, Alaska, Wednesday night when the fire jumped its perimeter and ran towards the road. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Sam Harrel)

FAIRBANKS — A stubborn wildfire kept driving restrictions in place Monday for the main road route between Fairbanks and Anchorage.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the Skinny’s Road Fire, named for a nearby bar, had covered 1,422 acres, or about 2.2 square miles, north of Nenana.

Fire officials said pilot cars would continue to escort traffic through a 10-mile stretch of highway from Miles 322 to 332.

“It’s going well, but it’s still a fragile situation,” said fire information officer Brian Ballou, part of an Oregon team that took over control of the fire Sunday.

More than 250 people were working on the fire, he said, and officials fear it will spring up again.

“It’s extremely dry, and the way that the fire burned, it didn’t burn everything, so the potential is strong for having torching and re-burning inside the fire lines,” he said. Flare-ups, he said, could allow the fire to shoot embers across fire lines and spread flames toward nearby buildings.

The fire began Tuesday. It was human-caused, fire officials said.

Pilot cars escorted traffic through the fire zone from 6 a.m. to midnight. Vehicles can travel through the fire zone without an escort from midnight to 6 a.m.

Pilot cars likely will be used for several more days to protect firefighters as well as travelers, Ballou said.

“There’s just enough heavy fire traffic — a lot of engines running back and forth — plus we still do have some fire line to finish, and the possibility still exists that we could get a large amount of smoke in a short bit of time,” Ballou said.

Fairbanks residents continue to breathe smoke from fires.

The Stuart Creek 2 fire, another fire caused by people, grew to 2,000 acres, or 3.1 square miles. The fire began June 19 and it burning on a military training range. Firefighters are attacking it from the air but not much on the ground.

“That is in the far upper reaches of the south fork of the Chena, so in theory it could hit Chena Hot Springs Road, so we’re using both water with CL-215 aircraft and retardant,” said information officer Pete Buist.


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