Toklat fire continues to grow

Posted: Monday, May 24, 2010

FAIRBANKS - A wildfire burning southwest of Nenana was spreading and continuing to threaten structures along the Kantishna River on Sunday.

The Toklat fire measured about 28,000 acres, up nearly 5,000 acres from the previous day. Smoke from the fire was fouling the air along the Parks Highway and in the Fairbanks area.

Firefighters are trying to keep the fire away from more than 20 private cabins and two Native allotments along the Kantishna River. The Alaska Fire Service said 128 firefighters are on the fire, including the Chena and Midnight Sun Hotshot crews and smokejumpers.

Crews have constructed fire lines around structures and are conducting burnout operations along the river. Two air tankers also have been used to douse the fire with water and hold it between natural barriers north of Mucha and East Twin lakes.

"This is a fire where we aren't trying to contain the fire itself," said Pete Buist, a spokesman for the Alaska Fire Service. "We are just sort of steering it around points that we want to protect."

Those areas are mainly along the river where there are homesteads and cabins.

After a change in wind direction, the fire came to within a mile of some cabins on Saturday night.

Buist said the Toklat Fire is the most significant wildfire in Alaska at this time. Eight new wildland fires were reported Saturday. All but one of the fires was human-caused.

The wildfire season is getting off to an uncharacteristically early start in the Interior this year. The type of activity being seen is more characteristic of what occurs in mid-to-late June. So far this year, 153 fires have burned nearly 32,451 acres statewide.

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