Tok firefighters get a break from the weather

Posted: Sunday, July 01, 2001

ANCHORAGE -- Rain helped crews battling a wildfire near Tok while cooler temperatures, higher humidity and diminishing winds helped firefighters get the upper hand on fires near Nenana and Kenai Lake Saturday.

"The weather has changed quite a bit," said Andy Williams, a spokesman for the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center.

The Tok fire, which broke out Friday afternoon, was declared 80 percent contained by Saturday evening.

"Obviously they made really good progress today," Williams said.

The blaze destroyed eight structures including a home, a vacation cabin and six outbuildings as it raced through black spruce in a residential area on the northeast corner of town Friday. It was estimated at about 120 acres.

About 350 people were evacuated during the height of the wind-whipped fire, mostly as a precaution while fire retardant was dropped from air tankers. Residents were allowed back into the area late Friday, Williams said.

The cause of the Tok fire was not yet known. There had been lightning in the area shortly before the fire was reported.

The Kenai Lake wildfire, which charred 2,900 acres, was more than 30 percent contained and full containment was expected by today evening. That fire began Monday, when a prescribed burn got out of control.

Crews were attacking another Kenai Peninsula fire. The Mystery Hill fire, 2 miles north of the Sterling Highway near Cooper Landing, began Thursday and had charred about 1,400 acres. The blaze was burning in a limited suppression area, but it was being actively fought, due to its close proximity to the highway.

Crews fighting the Fish Creek fire, south of Nenana, were making steady progress. They completed a large burnout Friday, bringing the total size of that fire to about 100,000 acres.

"That fire's looking really good along the perimeter, so they're beginning to release crews. There are still about 300 people assigned to that fire," Williams said.

The Survey Line fire burning on Fort Wainwright, about 15 miles southwest of Fairbanks was being monitored. Crews remained on a small portion of that fire, just west of the Wood River, where flames spilled over. But, for the most part, the 106,000-acre blaze was in a limited suppression area on military land and was not being actively fought.

"It can burn there all summer if it has a mind to," Williams said.

As of late Saturday, there were 23 fires burning around the state. Crews were working to extinguish five of them while the rest were being monitored.



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