Weather aids crews in fighting border fire

Posted: Tuesday, May 17, 2005

TOK - Favorable weather Monday helped firefighting crews working to contain a forest fire about seven miles from the U.S. Customs station on the Alaska Highway.

Global positioning satellites put the Island Lake Fire Monday at 1,300 acres - about 100 acres less than the previous day's estimate, according to Bernie Pineda, a fire information officer with the Department of Natural Resources.

Eight firefighting crews remained on the fire, focusing their efforts on building fire line, Pineda said. Most of the fire line had been completed on the east end of the blaze, but between 80 and 85 percent remained to be done Monday on the west side.

The goal is to contain the blaze by cutting a line around its perimeter and fighting it from the outside in.

"All the crews are still in place," he said. "The only thing we're not doing is air retardant because we don't have a need for it at this point."

The State Division of Forestry said retardant dumped on fire lines Sunday kept the fire at Mile 1231 Alaska Highway from spreading significantly.

The highway remains open and is expected to stay that way, Pineda said.

Operations at the customs post were not disrupted.

Higher humidity, cooler temperatures and cloud cover have aided the 191 firefighters assigned to the fire. If the weather continues the same, Pineda estimated firefighters could finish up in four to five days.

He cautioned that conditions remain fairly dry.

"We are just hoping that the weather does not produce a lot of higher temperatures and dries out the fuels," he said. If that was to occur, "It will start to flare up again and take off."

A lightning strike started the fire last Tuesday. No structures have been threatened but the fire is near a popular gateway to Alaska.

"We just don't want that fire moving up and down that highway all summer long," said Tom Kurth, fire management officer for Alaska Division of Forestry. "There's a lot of traffic moving up and down there."

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