McKinley Fire Update – Community meeting at 6:30 p.m.;Crews continued mopping up and falling hazard trees

Acreage: 3,753   Containment: 10%  Personnel: 318   Start Date: 8/17/2019

Firefighters, in conjunction with local agencies, worked diligently to perform a multitude of tasks at hand in their effort to protect homes and properties in the area, secure the burned area, and ultimately contain the wildfire. Crews continued mopping up and falling hazard trees around structures as they work to stabilize residential areas. Matanuska Electric Association utilized lift trucks, heavy equipment, and fallers to safeguard the power lines from fire-weakened trees and other hazards as they are in the process of reenergizing the main electrical lines. Dozers and crews built containment lines around the fire perimeter, while also dealing with spot fires and flare-ups. Two National Guard Blackhawks (UH60 Helicopters) dropped water to help cool areas of concern.

JBER Taskforce working on securing their lines.
Photo Credit:Julian Neubauer

The McKinley Fire did not increase in size, however active fire behavior was observed with an increase in open flames, tree torching and smoke output. An incredible amount of fire-weakened trees (both burned and unburned) creates a very dangerous working environment for firefighters while also impacting roads, the railroad and power lines. Extremely dry duff layers and a lack of crews is contributing to a slow mop up where fuels are resistant to being extinguished. Three more crews are expected to arrive today. Ample firefighting resources will be available to respond to any increase in fire behavior from the incoming weather predicted for this weekend.

A cold front is expected to move into the fire area this afternoon ushering in clouds, lower temperatures, higher humidity, and a slight chance for light rain Friday evening. By Saturday morning, winds will increase to 15 mph out the north/northeast with party cloudy to mostly sunny skies, highs in the upper 70’s, and minimum humidity around 30 percent. Clouds are forecasted to move into the area Sunday bringing cooler temperatures and the potential for scattered showers. A warming and drying trend will begin Monday through midweek as a high pressure moves into the area.

McKinley Fire Map 8.23.19

Evacuations: There is a potential for a “Level 2 – Set” Evacuations Notification for residents south of the fire due to the predicted northeast winds of about 15 mph. If a notification is required, a specific geographic area will be defined and announced on Friday. A “Level 2 – Set” Evacuation Notification is for residents to be ready and set to go within five minutes in the case of a “Level 3 – Go” Evacuation Order. A “Level 3 – Go” Evacuation Order remains in effect for all residences along the Parks Highway from Milepost 82 to Milepost 92. Residents and visitors are not allowed in the evacuation area until damage assessments are completed and fire managers know it is safe for the public to enter. Alaska National Guard soldiers are staffing traffic control points and Alaska State Troopers are patrolling the evacuated areas 24 hours per day to provide a safe working environment for emergency responders, safe passage through the fire area, and to deter theft. The State Fire Marshal’s Office and Alaska State Troopers are working to account for persons in the evacuation area. If you know of persons who may be unaccounted for please contact the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Evacuation Accountability Call Center at 907-861-8326.

Closures: The Parks Highway remains open. Motorists are warned to expect long delays and intermittent closures depending upon fire activity. As of 8:00 a.m. on 8/23/19, pilot cars are leading traffic between Mileposts 76 to 99. Matanuska Electric Association personnel continue clearing fire-weakened trees near power lines.The Alaska Railroad has been working to clear downed trees and debris from along the tracks. Limited railroad service resumed Wednesday. A Temporary Flight Restriction is in place over the fire area from 10:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. For further information, please visit https://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_9_4119.html.

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