Warmer weather could kick up fires again

Posted: Sunday, July 25, 2004

ANCHORAGE, Alaska - Crews Saturday took advantage of recent rains and hoped to get a handle on Interior wildfires facing yet another bout of dry, hot weather.

"It's bright and sunny in Fairbanks today and rapidly drying out," said Pete Buist, a fire information spokesman. "We're kind of in a time out, but it's a time to be extra vigilant. I've seen similar breaks like this, then fires get away because of complacency over just a day or two of rain."

Cool temperatures and rain slowed central Interior fires earlier in the week, prompting fire managers to lift an evacuation directive for about 80 homes and 150 people in a rural subdivision north of Fairbanks Friday. The directive, issued Monday, was removed after crews completed a reinforced firebreak between the neighborhood and the 494,000-acre Boundary fire, which is 20 percent contained.

On Saturday, crews continued to strengthen fire lines and do mop-up work on the fire, according to information officer Joe Cowell.

"They're hitting it while it's down," he said. "We're going into a drying trend and the pretty soggy thing we had for a couple of days is over for now. The fire could kick up again."

The 467,000-acre Taylor Complex to the southeast was calmer Saturday under cloudy skies and higher humidity. Warmer, drier conditions Friday brought active burning on the west side of the 231,000-acre Porcupine fire north of Tok.

"Things have really slowed down, giving us a jump on the fire," said information spokeswoman Jeannie Gilbertson. "We're expecting rain through the weekend - not just a sprinkle, but a soaker. Then we're looking at a drying trend to start Monday."

New fires remain the highest priority for firefighters. In fact, smokejumpers were dispatched Saturday to a small fire near the Yukon River village of Holy Cross that was sparked by a burning car.

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