McKinley Fire Morning Update: 08-24-19

Acreage: 3,368  Containment: 11%  Personnel: 439 Start Date: 8/17/2019

Friday, the Mat Su Borough along with other local agencies delivered notifications of destroyed structures to residents affected by the McKinley Fire. The total losses include; 51 primary homes, 3 commercial buildings, and 84 outbuildings. A community meeting is scheduled for 10:00 a.m. Sunday, August 25 at the Upper Susitna Senior Center.

McKinley Fire Community Meeting at Willow Elementary School 08-23-19

Firefighters continue working to protect homes and properties, secure the burned area, and build containment lines around the wildfire. Although structures were lost, many structures were saved. The majority of roads impacted by fallen trees are now clear. Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) is working to restore power to the area and has already reenergized the main line running parallel to Parks Highway. MEA is progressing on reenergizing the side taps that bring electricity from the main line to customers. School is scheduled to resume Tuesday for the Willow School District.

Thanks to continuous days of hard work, the north flank of the fire is secure and listed as contained. East of the Parks Highway, firefighters are connecting sections of containment lines with natural features and mopping up in their effort to limit fire spread to the east. Dozers completed line construction on the southern area of the fire, and crews are installing pumps and hoses to bring a continuous water supply to mop up hot spots along the fire’s edge. The west flank of the fire features a series of containment lines and wetlands as the fuel break. On the northwest section, crews have been focusing on mopping up around structures while ensuring all spot fires are identified and secured. Please note that the reduction in acreage is due to more accurate mapping.

Fire-weakened trees continue to fall, creating a very dangerous working environment for firefighters. Crews and fallers have their work cut out for them. Extremely dry duff layers make mop up difficult because the fire burns deep into the duff making it difficult to extinguish. Ash pits, or holes in the ground filled with ashes and hot embers, pose a hazard to firefighters and have caused minor burn injuries to firefighters. Residents who remain within the evacuated area are also exposed to these hazardous conditions. Five additional crews arrived Friday. Ample resources will be ready and available to respond to any increase in fire behavior from the incoming weather predicted for this weekend.

A cold front moved into the fire area Friday afternoon ushering in clouds, lower temperatures, higher humidity, a wind change, and light rain. Saturday, winds are expected to increase to 15 mph out the north/northeast with party cloudy 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.

Evacuations: A Level 1 “Ready” Evacuation notification was issued to 59 residences from milepost 76 to milepost 79. Level 1 – Ready is making sure you have your evacuation kit, family emergency plan, and evacuation plan prepared.  A Level 2 “SET” Evacuation notification was issued to 103 residences from milepost 79 to milepost 81.5. Level 2 – Set is having your items ready and being prepared to leave within minutes of a notification to leave. Stay aware of the latest news and info on the fire. A Level 3 “Go” Evacuation Order remains in effect for all residences along the Parks Highway from milepost 81.5 to milepost 92. Level 3 – Go means leave now, do not delay. Residents and visitors are not permitted to enter the Level 3 evacuation area.

The Red Cross has two emergency shelters in place. One is located at the Curtis D. Menard Sports Center in Wasilla and another is located at the Upper Susitna Senior Center in Talkeetna.

Closures: The Parks Highway remains open. Motorists are warned to expect long delays and intermittent closures depending upon fire activity. Pilot cars are leading traffic between Mileposts 76 to 99 to ensure firefighter and public safety. 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.           

With the Deshka Fire still active and firefighters present in the vicinity, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game has closed a portion of the Willow Swamp (Game Management Unit 14A) to hunting. The Department of Natural Resources has restricted all public access to State lands in the same area. Moose hunting season in the area is scheduled to open on Sunday, August 25. For more information, visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website at https://www.adfg.alaska.gov.

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