For the third straight day, high winds and limited resources are posing a serious challenge to firefighters contending with a late-season wildfire along the Glenn Highway north of Palmer.
The 300-acre Moose Creek Fire started early Saturday morning as the result of an escaped debris burn and firefighters have been battling the wind-driven blaze around the clock since then. The fire is burning about 12 miles north of Palmer and 5 miles south of Sutton.
The fire made a significant early-morning run south toward the highway on Monday, coming within about 75 feet of the highway near Mile 54. The Glenn Highway was temporarily closed while a bulldozer constructed a fire line connected to the road in an effort to prevent the fire from moving closer to the highway. The highway was reopened as of 11 a.m., though motorists should expect delays due to smoke and firefighting personnel/equipment on and along the road. Motorists are being asked to slow down between Miles 54-58 due to firefighting activity.
An Alaska State Trooper vehicle blocks the Glenn Highway early Monday morning during a temporary closure. The road was closed for a short time while a bulldozer constructed a fire line connected to the highway to prevent the Moose Creek Fire from encroaching on the road. Photo by Sierra Stark
The fire continues to be wind driven and the Alaska Division of Forestry is continuing to muster resources where it can find them this late in the season. Firefighters from the Alaska Air National Guard will be joining the effort today and five smokejumpers from the BLM Alaska Fire Service in Fairbanks will also be added to the lineup later today in an attempt to corral the late-season wildfire.
There are currently about 70 personnel from multiple agencies and local fire departments working on the fire, including the Alaska Division of Forestry, BLM Alaska Fire Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service, as well as firefighters from fire departments in Butte, Houston, Palmer, Sutton and Wasilla. Two helicopters have been used to drop water on the fire the past two days and those aircraft will be returning today to support firefighters’ efforts on the ground.
Firefighters are being tested by strong winds, cold temperatures and active fire behavior. A 3-acre flare up on the western perimeter Sunday night prompted managers to shift resources from other parts of the fire to that area to contain the flare up and prevent it from moving into the Moose Creek drainage. It was that section of fire that turned south early this morning and made a run toward the highway. Fire managers plan to construct a dozer line paralleling that edge of the fire down to the Glenn Highway to keep it from moving into the Moose Creek drainage.
The high winds have also caused spot fires produced by embers being carried by the wind that firefighters have had to contend with. The sub-freezing temperatures have caused problems by freezing hose lines, pumps and tanks of water being used for suppression efforts.
Firefighters are continuing to build fire line on the uncontained western perimeter of the fire closest to Moose Creek while also working to reinforce containment lines on the south and east flanks.
Conditions remain very dry in Southcentral and Interior Alaska. State Forestry officials are asking residents not to do any burning given the dry, windy conditions. In addition, any residents who did any burning in the past few weeks are asked to check the burn piles to ensure no heat remains that could lead to a wildfire.