Lightning-sparked McGrath wildfire grows to 5,000 acres

60,000 gallons of fire retardent dropped on blaze in recent days

Posted: Wednesday, May 27, 2009

ANCHORAGE - A wildfire burning north of McGrath in Alaska's Interior is growing.

State fire officials on Tuesday said the blaze burning north of McGrath has grown to more than 5,000 acres. "The fire is only 4 miles north of McGrath so it has precipitated a lot of concern and rightly so," said Andy Alexandrou, a public information officer for the Department of Natural Resources.

Winds are pushing the fire south.

Alexandrou said the fire is within a half-mile of a homesteader's residence. However, there is defensible space around the home and the property has a pump and hose if needed.

The family has not evacuated, Alexandrou said.

"We do have a few places that are at risk along the Takotna River to the west of the western flank of the fire," he said.

Eighty-three people are assigned to the fire. A team of between 20 to 30 firefighters was expected to arrive Tuesday evening with the job of trying to put the fire out, Alexandrou said.

Two helicopters have been assigned to the blaze.

Alexandrou said roughly 60,000 gallons of fire retardant has been dropped in recent days.

The Division of Forestry also has people in boats on the river warning people about the fire and giving them information on its progress. A public meeting was planned for Tuesday night.

Fire spokesman Matt Weaver said structure protection is taking place along the Kuskokwim River, where fish camps and cabins are at risk.

Lightning started about seven fires in the area on Sunday and Monday, but this fire - called the Broken Snowshoe fire - is the largest.

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