McKinley Fire – Clearing Power Line Easements

Matanuska Electric Association and Fire Crews work to restore power in the McKinley Fire.

MEA and Snake River Valley Crew #3 work together on the McKinley fire to clear power line easements.

Matanuska Electric Association works with Snake River Valley Crew #3 on the McKinley fire to clear downed trees near the Parks Highway in Willow. The fire destroyed poles and lines throughout the burned area. Restoring power to residences is a priority. However it is an arduous process as the downed trees and poles are on pockets of heat. Firefighters have to put out the heat before building piles so they do not reignite while avoiding ash pits and falling trees. MEA and fire crews worked to develop tactics so they could both effectively do their jobs and help residents return to their normal lives.
It should be noted fire crews usually wear their packs, “line gear” when working. Due to the amount of unusually deep ash pits and hazard trees crews are not wearing packs when they are close to their trucks and escape routes so they can remain agile in poor footing near fire weakened trees.

Firefighters have been helping Matanuska Electric Association (MEA) restore power and remove fire-damaged trees near power lines. They have made major progress this week are very close to having power fully restored.

Slow, tedious mop up work continues as firefighters search for hot spots and extinguish them. They have been mopping up along the fire perimeter, around structures, and along utility corridors. To find remaining hot spots they typically run their bare hands through the ash but also use hand held infrared sensors and infrared cameras on a drones.

Because fire damaged trees can fall unexpectedly on people, structures, roads or powerlines, firefighters have been removing these trees. Many trees remain standing throughout the fire area making it a dangerous place. Ash pits are deep holes filled with hot ash, and they exist throughout the area. These ash pits are hard to see and have caused burns on firefighters and the public when they accidently step into one.

A “Level 2 – Set” evacuation level exists between milepost 81.5 and 92. A “Level 1 – Ready” evacuation level exists between mileposts 79 and 81.5. Crews have used the Sheep Creek Lodge as a staging area for equipment and supplies. With the lodge reopening on Saturday, the staging area will move to a gravel pit across the street.

Weather: A broad low pressure system is approaching the area. For today this low pressure will start bringing clouds over the area. Rain this weekend should only be light showers with a better chance for more rain on Monday. With this storm system, some wind will arrive but it will generally be 10 mph or less. 

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/.  A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) exists over the McKinley Fire. 

Disaster Assistance Information

Matanuska Electric Association. Members needing to be reconnected can call 907-761-9300 or visit http://www.mea.coop

State of Alaska Homeland Security Disaster Assistance. For individuals and families with damaged primary residences or essential personal property lost in 2019 Mat-Su fires. Register online at ready.alaska.gov

Alaska Red Cross will be distributing emergency relief supplies and providing recovery casework and planning services at the Upper Susitna Senior Center and Curtis D Menard Memorial Sports Center. Relief supplies will also be available Sheep Creek Lodge. To reach a recovery caseworker call 907-764-2407

The Parks Highway remains open through the burned area with a speed limit of 45 mph. Be prepared to stop in this zone where crews and equipment continue working. Road updates available at 511.alaska.gov

Matanuska Susitna Borough will accept debris caused by the McKinley and Deshka Landing Fires at no cost at specific locations. For more information the Solid Waste Division can be reached at 907-861-7600. For recorded information call 907-761-3700.

Community Organizations Active in Disaster (COAD) collects and distributes donations like clothes, shoes, winter gear, bedding, and food. They have locations in Big Lake, Wasilla, Talkeetna, and Willow. 907-745-5827Team Rubicon can provide assistance with debris removal and clean up. Team Rubicon unites the skills and experiences of military veterans with first responders to rapidly deploy emergency response teams. 360-975-7944

Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) can assist with health and safety issues including air quality, drinking water, food safety and sanitation, wastewater, solid waste, and hazardous substances. Reach the ADEC Disaster Coordination Team at 907-269-4198

#akwildfire #alaskawildfire #dnrwildfire #msbem

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