Winds spread fire north of Fairbanks

Posted: Tuesday, June 29, 2010

FAIRBANKS - The Pat Creek Fire near Stevens Village grew rapidly during the weekend as dry, windy conditions thwarted an aggressive response by fire crews.

The lightning-sparked wildfire increased from 325 acres to 6,300 acres - roughly 10 square miles.

More than 200 firefighters are battling the blaze 90 miles north of Fairbanks. Crews are still assessing the danger to structures and allotments, fire information officer Sarah Saarloos said.

The Alaska Fire Service and Alaska Division of Forestry are working together to fight the fire. Efforts included six loads of retardant and continuous water drops by aircraft as crews attacked the southern perimeter of the fire.

The lightning-caused fire was reported Friday afternoon by a Stevens Village resident.

The Pat Creek Fire didn't get the wet weather that covered the Fairbanks area through much of the weekend, Saarloos said. Fairbanks International Airport received two-tenths of an inch of rain Saturday evening and Sunday morning.

"They're definitely in a drier area than we are," Saarloos said.

The damp weather did help at the Willow Creek Fire, located about 10 miles from Fairbanks on the south side of the Tanana River. The fire was updated to 2,154 acres on Sunday, an increase of only 40 acres.

Smokejumpers reported that despite sporadic light rain, the ground remains dry under the canopy of large spruce trees, allowing the fire to smolder.

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