Fire near Chena Hot Springs threatens road.

Posted: Sunday, May 26, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Firefighters were battling Saturday to keep a fire north of Chena Hot Springs Road from crossing that road into a stand of white spruce, according to the Division of Forestry.

Meanwhile, firefighters diverted aerial retardant bombers and other resources to a fast-moving fire that began at a campground near Anderson.

''Much of what we were using at Chena Hot Springs has been diverted to try to get this one while it is still small,'' said Pete Buist of the Alaska Division of Forestry.

''In the space of half an hour it went from an acre to about 15 acres. It looks like it has the potential to be a problem fire.''

At the Chena Hot Springs fire, a wind shift turned the fire southward Saturday, and some spot fires were being fought on the south side of the road.

''In this kind of weather, if you don't catch it, it's going to go,'' said Buist Saturday. He estimated wind speed at about 7 to 10 mph.

The road has been closed at around Mile 50 since Friday, and ''we can't even get fire traffic through there now -- it's that smoky,'' Buist said. The last report put the acreage of that fire at 3,000 acres, but smoke made evaluation difficult.

Buist said firefighters working with helicopters and buckets were having some success extinguishing the spot fires south of the road.

More than 150 firefighters were working the fire Saturday afternoon. One cabin was destroyed and fire crews were trying to keep the blaze from reaching either the Chena Hot Springs Resort to the west or Angel Creek Lodge to the east.

A fire on the south side of the Eliott Highway near Livengood was pushed south by the wind and reached 4,000 acres, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center. Seven crews, eight smokejumpers, and two helicopters are battling that blaze, which began Thursday.

Another blaze, this one 15 miles south of McGrath, reached 5,000 acres, and 16 smokejumpers on that fire were pulled back to McGrath for safety. The town of McGrath is protected by the Kuskokwim River.

A blaze near Kalskag was holding at 3,370 acres Saturday.

There were 23 fires burning in Alaska Saturday, with firefighters working at six of them. So far, 204 fires have burned 58,400 acres.

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