McKinley Fire Morning Update: 09-04-19

Engine Crewmembers from "Forrest Fire" Type 4 Engine Dean Seibold (left) and Brian Van Dusen Dig and Spray Hot Spots and Ash Pits Near the Parks Highway. Photo credit Mike McMillian
Engine Crewmembers from “Forrest Fire” Type 4 Engine Dean Seibold (left) and Brian Van Dusen Dig and Spray Hot Spots and Ash Pits Near the Parks Highway. Photo credit Mike McMillian

All normal school bus stops have resumed in the Willow area.

Light rain and high humidities throughout most of Tuesday allowed firefighters to steadily mop-up around structures utilizing equipment to mix the deep duff layer and extinguish hot embers. The majority of work continues in the Crop Circle and Yancey areas as firefighters continue to address hazards around access routes and structures. Crews and heavy equipment are working together to cut and pile larger logs into ‘bone piles’ in order to remove fuels from around structures.  These burning piles are likely to be seen as mop-up continues. Firefighters are utilizing hand-held infrared cameras and drones to safely identify hot areas lying below the surface. Engine crews are then working with heavy equipment to dig up and cool the burning material. As they move through the area, firefighters are also marking hazards with flagging; ashpits are posing the greatest risk daily to firefighters and residents. Red and white flagging identifies fireline hazards, such as fire weakened trees and ashpits.  Yellow and black flagging marks hazmat hazards around homes. A night shift is still in place on the fire to monitor any areas of heat and continue mop-up.  

Extreme caution and a high level of awareness is urged for residents within the fire perimeter and woodcutters along the Parks Highway.  Deep pockets of burning organic material called ashpits along with snags pose significant dangers to anyone inside the burn area.  

Cloudy skies and light precipitation are expected to continue today with the sky clearing later in the afternoon.  Highs will be around 63 with a southwest wind at 5 mph.   

All power is restored to the area and any residents experiencing issues should call the Matanuska Electric Association.  Residences from milepost 81.5 to 92 of the Parks Highway are still in evacuation “Level 1-Ready.” The fire perimeter in this area is controlled, but the threat of ash pits and falling timber continues to be a hazard. The Parks Highway speed limit remains 45 mph.

As of today, September 4th at 8:00 a.m., the burn closure for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and the Kenai Peninsula Borough has been rescinded.

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) is still in effect over the McKinley Fire. 

Disaster Assistance:  There are several agencies with information on disaster assistance; please visit Alaska Wildland Fire Information:  https://bit.ly/2lzpyZu for detailed contact information.  

Today The Mat-Su borough will open Disaster Assistance Centers September 4-18 from 9:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. for fire survivors to register for the State of Alaska Individual Assistance.  Locations include: 

  • Willow United Methodist Church (29286 Parks Hwy, Willow, AK 99688)
  • Upper Susitna Community Center (16463 Helena Ave), Talkeetna, AK 99676 (September 4-6, closing at noon on September 6th).

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