Weather puts a damper on wildfires, but not lightning strikes

Posted: Friday, June 07, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Rain and lower temperatures cooled off several large Alaska wildfires Thursday, one day after about 2,000 lightning strikes peppered the Interior and started at least nine new fires.

Smoke jumpers were brought in to fight four of the new fires. Two others went out on their own and three were being monitored, said Andy Williams of the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center.

Most of the fires were in the Tanana Valley west of the Toklat River. The largest, at 50 acres, was about 25 miles west of Anderson, south of Nenana. Fourteen smoke jumpers were brought in to fight that one.

''It appears that we controlled all of them,'' Williams said.

No new fires were reported Thursday, but 446 lightning strikes were recorded by mid-afternoon. Most of the strikes occurred near Tok and the Upper Yukon.

The Homer Volunteer Fire Department responded Wednesday to a small fire of one-tenth of an acre that spread from a burn pile.

Meanwhile, firefighters at a large, human-caused fire burning since May 23 near Livengood were waiting for the humidity to rise before conducting a 1,000-acre burn near the Elliott Highway.

Williams said the area of black spruce needs to be burned because otherwise firefighters will have to build miles of fire line to prevent the blaze from spreading later in the summer. It also will keep the 96,000-acre fire south and east of the highway.

About 375 firefighters and support personnel remain assigned to the Livengood fire.

The rainy, cool weather allowed firefighters in McGrath to mop up on the northern flank of a 91,482-acre fire six miles east of the town. Firefighters were finding smoldering logs and cooling them off to strengthen the fire break between the fire and the town.

Fire personnel from at least seven states have come to assist in helping fight the McGrath blaze. Nearly 300 people are assigned to the fire.

Showers also helped nearly 100 firefighters working on the perimeter of a fire burning since May 23 near Mile 52 of Chena Hot Springs Road east of Fairbanks. That fire remains at 22,092 acres.

Thirty-nine fires were burning in Alaska. Seven were being actively fought and the others were being monitored.

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