Evacuation urged for 80 Interior homes

Posted: Tuesday, July 20, 2004

ANCHORAGE - About 150 people north of Fairbanks were told to evacuate Monday as the Boundary fire closed in on their homes, fire managers said.

Firefighters knocked on the doors of about 80 homes in the Haystack subdivision.

"The fire has breached one of our dozer lines in the upper Poker Creek area," said fire information officer Gil Knight. "It's time to go."

The fire sprang to life at the southern edge of the blaze when winds picked up, said Jeremy Pris, a fire information spokesman. The northwest corner in the White Mountain area also burned hotly, he said.The fire sprang to life at the southern edge of the blaze when winds picked up, said Jeremy Pris, a fire information spokesman. The northwest corner in the White Mountain area also burned hotly, he said.

On Monday, firefighters were trying to reinforce a bulldozer line cleared between the fire and the Haystack subdivision. Officials said crews may need to burn out the area east of the dozer line and it would be safer for residents to leave their homes and keep roads clear.

"We're not telling people to leave now, just to start getting things ready," Pris said. "The fire situation can change quickly."

Residents of the same subdivision were evacuated from their homes for a week in an order that was lifted July 7.

The Taylor Complex fires continued to smolder and smoke Monday. Rain fell Sunday night over a section of the 209,000-acre Porcupine fire northeast of Tok, slowing conditions a bit, said fire information spokesman Kevin Koechlein.

"But the interesting phenomenon is that even though it was raining we still had extreme fire behavior there for a while," he said. "That's how dry it is. Everything out there is like a giant sponge."

On Monday, crews assigned to the 440,000-acre complex were working on protecting cabins scattered along the north bank of the Tanana River, just south of the Porcupine fire. Firefighters also were clearing brush and trees near homes in Northway, a village of 80 people about seven miles from the 70,500-acre Gardiner Creek fire.

"The concern there is all the homes on the north side of Alaska Highway," Koechlein said. "There are a lot of village elders there."

Other wildfires were less active elsewhere in the Interior, where most of the 107 current blazes in the state are located. Three new fires were caused by lightning, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center.

By the latest estimates, wildfires have burned close to 3.6 million acres this summer.

On Monday, the 170,000-acre Central Complex fire northeast of Fairbanks was socked in by smoke trapped under a temperature inversion that calmed area blazes, according to fire information spokesman Roland Emetaz.

"If this inversion lifts, it could be a different story," he said. "For now, it's smoky. This morning the sun was a red ball in the sky and at times you could barely see the red ball."

Firefighters reinforced lines to ward off the 44,000-acre Bolgen fire about three miles northwest of homes on the outskirts of Circle and six miles north of Central. They also continued to install sprinklers around homes in the small communities.

"Our main concern are sparks, not so much a raging fire," Emetaz said. "We want to make sure houses are protected by moisture and that any firebrands don't have an effect."

To the northwest, similar weather conditions also slowed the 547,000-acre Solstice Complex, although individual black spruce trees were burning in sections of the Pingo and Winter Trail fires, fire information spokeswoman Michelle Fidler said.

But most of the activity had dwindled, prompting plans to downsize crews by Wednesday. Most of the firefighting efforts will target protecting Venetie about three miles south of the 282,000-acre Pingo fire.

"The beauty of the plan is that we're able to scale operations up and down," Fidler said. "Should the need arise we can bring in more folks."

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