Wildfire near McGrath grows to 21,760 acres

Posted: Friday, May 29, 2009

McGRATH - A wildfire burning near McGrath has grown to 21,760 acres and additional help was being dispatched to the Interior Alaska fire, a Division of Forestry official said Thursday.

The Broken Snowshoe fire had been estimated at nearly 12,000 acres on Wednesday. The increase of nearly 10,000 acres within a day was due not only to the fire's growth on the eastern perimeter but also by more accurate mapping of the blaze, Forestry spokesman Andy Alexandrou said.

Nine crews, or 176 people, were working the fire about 225 miles northwest of Anchorage on Thursday, when two additional crews were expected to join the effort. That should bring the total number of firefighters on scene to about 200, he said.

A total of 33 structures, mostly cabins along the Kuskokwim and Takotna rivers, were threatened.

Among them is a homestead located on the Takotna River, about a half-mile from the western perimeter of the fire.

"Two crews are at that homestead, and they're doing some site protection and creating some more defensible space," Alexandrou said.

The homeowners are not evacuating, he said.

Firefighters are reducing the risk of fire damage by putting in pumps, hoses and a sprinkler system.

"And they are prepared to burn out if the need arises to create more black line around the homestead proper," Alexandrou said.

Besides the home, there are livestock, a garden and hay fields on the property.

No structures have been damaged or destroyed in the fire, he said.

The forecast for the next few days calls for cooler, more humid conditions.

"By any means, it's not going to put the fire out but it will slow its progress ever so slightly," he said.

However, he said the forecast for Saturday includes increasing winds.

There are two other Interior Alaska wildfires that have been staffed in the last few days, he said.

The Stony Fire, about 12 miles northwest of Lime Village, has been declared contained. Eight smoke jumpers worked the 235-acre blaze.

The other is the Hoholitna Fire, a nearly 1,900-acre blaze burning about 20 miles southeast of Sleetmute. Crews are performing cabin protection in this fire.

One new fire was reported Wednesday. The Taft fire, covering about 3 acres, is burning about 100 miles northwest of McGrath, near the Innoko Wildlife Refuge boundary. This fire is being monitored but not staffed.

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