Infrared flights have shown a fire south of Two Rivers is nearly half the size previously believed because the fire is burning in “fingers” instead of one solid block.
Fire information spokeswoman Mary Huels said the Stuart Creek 2 fire burning near non-populated areas is burning on about 32,000 acres, or about 46 square miles.
Fire information spokeswoman Michelle Weston said approximately 884 residents are on evacuation watch, and the fire is burning about 5 miles from more than 430 structures.
Weston said firefighters were unable to get a good look from a flight above the fire until late Wednesday because of smoke.
The fire’s pattern means firefighters will have to hold “anchor points” in places to ensure the fire doesn’t sneak around them, Huels said.
“Sometimes they will connect between fingers of fire and let it burn toward the line, or they’ll do a burnout of pockets of fuel, depending on the terrain or fuel,” Huels said.
The fire is burning on mixed hardwoods and black spruce. No one has been injured. Firefighters are concerned about wind behavior.
Strong gusts could ignite a run toward structures.
Fire officials are still cautioning residents that an evacuation could be ordered, while cooler temperatures and lighter winds were expected to help firefighters control the blaze.
The Alaska Interagency Coordination Center issued the watch for those living from Mile 14 to Mile 32 of Chena Hot Springs Road.
Officials say those with special needs or who might have to evacuate livestock or sled dogs may want to consider leaving before an evacuation order is issued.
Smoke jumpers, retardant tankers and water-scooping aircraft are being used to fight the wildfire.