Fire near Fort Yukon spreads toward the community of 600

Posted: Wednesday, June 22, 2005

ANCHORAGE - Fire crews are burning out vegetation ahead of a 62,000-acre blaze to keep it from spreading further south to Fort Yukon.

Fort Yukon, a community of about 600, is at the confluence of the Yukon and Porcupine rivers 145 miles northeast of Fairbanks.

The fire has spread about 3,000 acres since the weekend and crossed Nuntragut Slough toward the Porcupine River, which separates Fort Yukon from the blaze, fire information officer Tom Kempton said.

Winds on Tuesday were lighter than expected, helping the more than 280 firefighters working to hold the fire line.

"Our goal is to keep it north of the Porcupine River," Kempton said.

Federal air traffic controllers have set up a control tower in Fort Yukon to help direct the helicopters, water scoopers, cargo and supply aircraft working on the effort to douse the blaze.

Strong, gusty winds had been forecast for Tuesday so firefighters did some advance work Monday night.

Aerial crews dumped water onto the blaze and ferried supplies and gear, while ground crews worked past midnight Monday to make sure the fire line would hold.

Fire officials don't expect an evacuation of Fort Yukon, but said a safety plan for the town's several hundred residents will be created if necessary.

"Nobody's getting excited yet," said Samson Peter, maintenance director for Yukon Flats school district. "So far, nothing's happening. We're all still here."

The fire remains about eight miles northeast of Fort Yukon, Kempton said.

Members of Alaska's Division of Emergency Services and the Bureau of Land Management met officials of Fort Yukon Tuesday afternoon to discuss emergency plans for the community.

The fire was first spotted June 12 and was likely caused by lightning, according to investigators from the Bureau of Land Management.

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