McKinley Fire Suppression Repair: 3 Minute Video of Heavy Equipment Operators Vern and Neil

All of the equipment operators, including Vern and Neil who are featured in this short video, are critical to the success of both the suppression and repair of the McKinley Fire. Watch as Vern and Neil explain the process of reducing debris along the Mat-Stu Borough and DOT right of ways within the McKinley Fire perimeter. Vern explains how the remote controlled 80,000 pound tracked horizontal grinder works. This equipment has been a key part of the requirement to meet the suppression repair standards. Incident excavator operator Neil feeds the remote controlled machine with his 65,000 pound excavator and explains the process.

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The McKinley Fire started near Milepost 91 of the Parks Highway on Aug. 17, 2019. The Alaska Type 2 Interagency Incident Management Team assumed management of the fire the evening of Monday, Aug. 19. Transfer of command to the Northern Rockies Team #7 occurred on September 2nd at 7am. Operations has been based at the Willow Community Center. 

Incident Commander Bryan Quimby reviews the suppression repair plan during the final days of the 2019 McKinley Fire. Photo credit: Public Information Officer Kale Casey
Incident Commander Bryan Quimby reviews the suppression repair plan during the final days of the 2019 McKinley Fire. Photo credit: Public Information Officer Kale Casey

52 primary residences, 3 commercial structures and 84 outbuildings were destroyed in the fire by the evening of Aug. 18 and into the morning. The Alaska Department of Public Safety, State Fire Marshal, and Alaska State Troopers have been working with the Alaska Division of Forestry and Matanuska-Susitna Borough to assist the communities in dealing with effects of the fire. 

Many of the fire personnel remaining on the incident responded to the 2015 Sockeye Fire. Because these crews live and work in the area, they have recent experience that will help guide their work. One of the main “watch out” situations is for alignments of downed fuels or stacked berms that could create what firefighters call “holdovers”. In a burn area this large and with the burn so deep, to a certain degree a few “holdovers” of hidden heat in berms or ash pits are inevitable. The more work that is completed now, the fewer issues firefighters will have to address next spring.

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 Parks Highway speed limit remains 45 mph through the fire vicinity.

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.  

Disaster Assistance: There are several agencies with information on disaster assistance; please visit Alaska Wildland Fire Information: for detailed contact information. 

The Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) over the McKinley Fire has been lifted.

Video credit: PIO Kale Casey/Alaska IMT/Alaska DOF

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McKinley Fire, Deshka Fire, Alaska Wildfires, Wildfires 2019, Willow Alaska, DOF Wildfires, BLM Alaska, AK Fire Info, Mat-Su Wildfire

Categories: AK Fire Info

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