McKinley Fire Morning Update: 08-26-19

Acreage: 3,332   Containment: 46%   Personnel: 449  Start Date: 8/17/2019

In the past two days, containment has increased from 11 percent to 46 percent. A community meeting will be held at the Willow Elementary School Tuesday, August 27 at 6:30 p.m.

Fire managers and cooperating agencies are meeting Monday morning to reevaluate current evacuations levels. All evacuation levels are based on firefighter and public safety as well as current and expected fire behavior.

Firefighters and emergency personnel have accomplished a great deal of work securing the uncontained wildfire and stabilizing the burned area, however there is active fire in the interior. Visitors and residents will see smoke from flare ups and interior pockets of heat into the foreseeable future.

Firefighters, excavators, and feller bunchers are removing hazard trees around homes and infrastructure. A feller buncher is an excavator with an attachment that can cut, lift and stack trees in a manner that minimizes damage to root systems. Matanuska Electric Association has restored power to the Caswell Lakes and is working on reenergizing lines to all customers in the burned area as they continue safeguarding the power line corridor.

The Parks Highway is open through the burned area between mileposts 84-92 with a posted speed limit of 45 mph. The Alaska National Guard and traffic flaggers will be in areas where fire crews and residents will be entering and exiting the roadway. Drivers are encouraged to use headlights to increase visibility and abide by the speed limit. Alaska State Troopers will patrol the highway and enforce speed limits to ensure firefighters and public safety. 

Please be advised, recently burned areas are very dangerous. Fire burns deeply in extremely dry duff layers and has weakened many trees that continue falling unexpectedly. Ash pits have caused minor burn injuries to firefighters. Ash pits are deep holes in the ground filled with hot ash and embers and are often hard to see. These conditions create a very dangerous environment for firefighters and residents.

Weather: A warming and drying trend will begin Monday and remain in the area into the week. Winds should remain light through midweek. Precipitation for the month of August in Anchorage is normally just over three inches. No measureable rain has been reported in August of 2019.

Evacuations:  

  • A Level 1 “Ready” Evacuation notification is in effect for 59 residences from milepost 76 to milepost 79. Level 1 – Ready is making sure you have an evacuation kit, family emergency plan, and evacuation plan.  
  • A Level 2 “SET” Evacuation notification is in effect 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.
  • 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.

The Red Cross has two emergency shelters to help evacuated residents. One is located at the Curtis D. Menard Sports Center in Wasilla and the other is located at the Upper Susitna Senior Center in Talkeetna (Parks Hwy mp 99). Caseworkers will be available at the Menard Sports Center from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. to provide recovery casework and planning. This casework will continue until the recovery planning needs of those affected are met.

Closures: A portion of Willow Swamp (Game Management Unit 14A) is closed due to the Deshka Landing Fire. For more info, visit the Alaska Department of Fish and Game website at https://www.adfg.alaska.gov/.  The Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) over the McKinley Fire will extend from 0800 to 2300 local time, while the dimensions of the TFR will decrease slightly. The changes will more accurately reflect where and when incident aircraft are working. Pilots are advised to check NOTAMS at https://tfr.faa.gov/tfr2/list.jsp before flying near the fire area.

Air Quality/Smoke: South winds brought smoke from fires on the Kenai Peninsula combining with smoke from the MchKinley and Deshka fires. For additional air quality information, visit https://fires.airfire.org/outlooks/

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