Winds cause wildfire near Fort Yukon area to spread

Posted: Thursday, June 23, 2005

ANCHORAGE - Fire crews wrestling with a 65,000-acre blaze several miles northeast of Fort Yukon faced a round of wind gusts that spread the flames another several hundred acres Wednesday.

Fire crews on the ground worked to hold back the western edge of the blaze as winds reached gusts of 25 mph on Wednesday, said fire information officer Tom Kempton.

The fire had threatened to move closer to the village of Fort Yukon, which lies across the Porcupine River to the southwest. Fire crews kept the blaze from advancing in that direction, though.

Crews had already burned out a swath of vegetation about six miles from the village in an attempt to keep the fire from jumping the river.

The community of about 600 people does not plan to evacuate. State officials have been meeting with village elders to help with emergency planning.

The National Weather Forecast said winds would likely diminish Wednesday night, with light winds on Thursday and Friday, Kempton said.

"There won't be the wind. That's what causes such a big problem," he said.

Winds of up to 30 mph on Saturday had more than doubled the size of the Sheenjek River fire to 59,000 acres.

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

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

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