Tanana wildfires sweep across thousands of acres

15 blazes burning around the state; three are being actively fought

Posted: Monday, June 25, 2001

ANCHORAGE - Two fires south of Fairbanks covered about 80,000 acres Sunday as high temperatures and light winds kept the fires moving to the southwest.

The biggest fire, burning on Fort Wainwright military land, grew to about 50,000 acres, according to Andy Williams of the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center in Fairbanks. It was bouncing steadily southwest along the southern bank of the Tanana River pushed by winds from the northeast at 5 to 7 mph. That fire had been estimated at just 27,000 acres on Saturday.

The blaze sent heavy smoke over the town of Nenana, but it was not being fought because it was in what's called a limited fire suppression area. It was advancing fairly close to the Wood River, boundary of the military reservation. The cause was still under investigation, Williams said.

South of Nenana, about 250 firefighters were working to contain a fire that had grown to 30,000 acres from 25,000 a day earlier, working on fire lines both north and south of the blaze.

Five helicopters were helping that effort west of the Totatlanika River, which runs roughly parallel to the Parks Highway about a dozen miles to the east of the road.

The area east of the Totatlanika is a limited suppression area, so that area was being allowed to burn unchecked, said incident information officer Roger Stilipec.

Temperatures were in the 80s with low humidity, he said, but the fire didn't advance as much as firefighters had feared over the weekend and structures along the Parks were not in its immediate path.

"The threat to structures is still a consideration, but it's not an immediate cause for evacuation," Stilipec said.

The blaze, called the Fish Creek fire, started about 15 miles south of Nenana and five miles east of Anderson. It is believed to be human-caused, Stilipec said. It was burning in a mixture of forest areas including spruce, birches and tundra.

The fire began Wednesday and was estimated at only about 4,000 acres on Friday. But a change in wind direction Friday night boosted the area dramatically.

Another small fire on the Fort Wainwright reservation was being watched closely, Williams said. That blaze, which started Saturday near Blair Lakes on the far southeastern part of the fort, was only a few miles from a military complex between the lakes.

Altogether, 15 wildfires were burning around the state Sunday, with three of them being actively fought.

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