FAIRBANKS - Fires throughout the Interior continued to burn, sending thick smoke into Fairbanks and prompting an air quality warning from the state Department of Environmental Conservation.
"Air quality levels are considered to be unhealthy in the Fairbanks area and will remain so as long as the fire activity continues," said Gerry Guay, project manager for the DEC's air monitoring section. "It is unhealthy even for people with normal health."
People with respiratory and heart problems, as well as children and the elderly, should avoid any outdoor activity, Guay said. Everyone else should avoid "prolonged exertion."
Most of the smoke blanketing Fairbanks on Monday blew in from the Geskakmina Lake Fire east of the city, said Andy Williams, spokesman for the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center.
Fire officials say the Geskakmina Lake fire was last estimated at 118,000 acres several days ago, but it has probably grown considerably since then, Williams said.
The lightning-caused Ketchem Creek Fire near Arctic Circle Hot Springs expanded to about 1,500 acres Monday. Residents from nearby Central are getting ready to protect the community, said Jim Crabb, owner of Crabb's Corner, a local store, restaurant and bar.
"We are preparing our Cats for putting fire breaks in," he said. "We are not going to let it get into Central if we can help it."
Eight 16-person firefighter crews were working the fire, Williams said, as were eight smokejumpers and a helicopter crew.
The National Weather Service was forecasting a change in wind direction soon, according to meteorologist Dan Hancock.
"Winds right now are coming out of the west to southwest and will be turning to the northwest," he said.