Parks Highway re-opened as state forestry battles two wildfires in Mat-Su Valley

10 p.m. Update – This will be the final update of the evening. For highway information, go to 511.Alaska.gov.

Firefighters continue to work furiously to contain two wildfires burning about 20 miles apart on the opposite side of the Parks Highway, one of which temporarily closed the highway between mileposts 88 to 93.

Deshka Landing Fire 1
An aerial photo of the Deshka Landing Fire (#736). Photo by Tim Whitesell/Alaska Division of Forestry

As of 10 p.m., the highway has been re-opened and pilot cars are leading traffic through the area of the McKinley Fire near milepost 91. Motorists should expect delays and smoke in the area. Please be on the lookout for emergency response vehicles and personnel on the road.

The McKinley Fire is holding at 140 acres and remains east of the Parks Highway. There were reports of some spot fires across the highway but firefighters have been successful in suppressing those fires.

Firefighters from the Alaska Division of Forestry and local fire departments are in place to protect any structures threatened by the fire. Alaska State Troopers have been notifying residents in the area and encouraging them to be prepared for a possible evacuation.

An air tanker is currently dropping retardant around the head of the fire to create a containment line and slow the fire’s spread. A five-person task force of firefighters from Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson have arrived at the fire and another five-person task force from the Anchorage Fire Department is enroute. Three additional crews are enroute to the fire and should arrive sometime this evening.

The Deshka Landing Fire (#736) near milepost 68 of the highway, meanwhile, is estimated at 200-plus acres. At last report it was one-half mile from South Rolly Campground and fire managers have issued an evacuation notice for the campground. Fire personnel are also contacting anyone staying in cabins on Red Shirt Lake to prepared for a possible evacuation.

Four more smokejumpers have been deployed on the fire and two helicopters have been making water drops on the fire.

Temporary flight restrictions are in place over the fire and local pilots should check the status of the TFRs at https://tfr.faa.gov/tfr2/list.html.

Map of the evacuation area for McKinley Fire on Aug. 17, 2019.
Map of the evacuation area for McKinley Fire on Aug. 17, 2019. For a downloadable PDF version of the map go to 8-17-19 McKinley Evac Area

ORIGINAL REPORT

A wind-driven wildfire has closed the Parks Highway between Miles 88 and 93 and prompted the evacuation of a subdivision and RV park near Mile 91 of the Parks Highway

An aerial photo of the McKinley Fire burning near Mile 91 east of the Parks Highway. Photo by Tim Whitesell/Alaska Division of Forestry
An aerial photo of the McKinley Fire burning near Mile 91 east of the Parks Highway. Photo by Tim Whitesell/Alaska Division of Forestry

Residents in the area of Wild Bill Way, Yancy Drive and the Mat-Su RV Park and Campground were told to leave their homes due to the encroaching McKinley Fire, which was reported at approximately 4:20 p.m. and grew rapidly due to high winds. Alaska State Troopers issued a Nixle alert urging all residents between Miles 88 and 93 to leave their homes.

The fire is burning about one-half mile east of the Parks Highway near Mile 91, It is one of more than a half dozen wildfires the Alaska Division of Forestry’s Mat-Su Area office and local fire departments responded to or were still responding to on Saturday as a result of high winds that knocked down powerlines or caused trees to fall on powerlines.

As of 6:45 p.m., the fire was estimated between 120-140 acres and was moving west toward the highway. An air tanker was dropping retardant around the edges of the fire to slow its spread while a helicopter is making water drops on the fire. A helitack squad and a state forestry engine are also on scene working to attack the fire from the ground. Six smokejumpers are being deployed on the fire currently and should be on the ground soon, if they are not already.

Map of the Mckinley Fire (#738) to the north and the Mile 90.5 Fire burning north of Sheep Creek near milepost 90 of the Parks Highway.
Map of the Mckinley Fire (#738) to the north and the Mile 90.5 Fire burning north of Sheep Creek near milepost 90 of the Parks Highway. For a downloadable PDF map go to 8-17-19 Mckinley Fire & Mile 90.5 Fire

The fire was originally east of the Alaska Railroad tracks but it jumped to the west of the tracks and was moving toward the highway at last report. Firefighters are currently trying to keep the fire on the east side of the highway.

The Alaska Railroad is stopping all train traffic 5 miles north and south of the fire.

Shelters for evacuees were being set up at the Upper Susitna Senior Center on the north side of the highway closure and at the Willow Community Center on the south side of the closure.

State forestry is also working to contain an approximately 100-acre wildfire burning near Deshka Landing, about 22 miles to the south of the McKinley Fire. The Deshka Landing Fire is burning about 4 ½ miles west of the Parks Highway near Mile 68 and is within one-half mile of multiple recreational cabins along the Susitna River northeast of the fire.

Four smokejumpers and a helitack squad have been deployed on the fire and an air tanker is enroute to make retardant drops. A helicopter is dropping water on the fire.

For more information, contact the Alaska Interagency Fire Information Office at (907)356-5511.

A map showing the location of the Deshka Landing Fire (#736). For a downloadable PDF map go to 8-17-19 Deshka Landing Fire

About Alaska Division of Forestry

Alaska Division of Forestry website: http://forestry.alaska.gov/ Mission: The Alaska Division of Forestry proudly serves Alaskans through forest management and wildland fire protection. The Wildland Fire and Aviation Program provides safe, cost-effective and efficient fire protection services and related fire and aviation management activities to protect human life and values on State, private and municipal lands. The wildland fire program cooperates with other wildland fire agencies on a statewide, interagency basis.

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