Wind, spruce fuel Goodpaster fire

Posted: Tuesday, June 17, 2003

DELTA JUNCTION (AP) Huge, old black spruce on hills provided ready fuel Monday for a wildfire in the Goodpaster Valley, about 30 miles northeast of Delta Junction.

The fire had blackened 4,000 to 5,000 acres by Monday afternoon and was threatening a handful of recreation cabins.

''That fire made quite a run,'' said Pete Buist, spokesman for the Division of Forestry. ''It took off during the night.''

Buist told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner that wind and hilly terrain contributed to the fire's rapid growth.

''Any time fire moves uphill it really goes,'' he said.

Al Edgren, Delta area forester, said four crews on site were protecting four cabins in the danger area. By about 4 p.m. Monday, the fire had spread just north of Sand Creek, above the fork of the Goodpaster, and was moving east without benefit of wind.

If the wind picks up, ''It's going to change a whole lot of things,'' Edgren said.

The fire began with a lightning strike Saturday. Four burning acres grew to 130 by early Sunday morning. Firefighters returning by helicopter late Sunday night said their efforts to contain the fire proved futile with no close water source.

By about 11 p.m. Sunday, it had spread to 2,300 acres, forcing the initial attack crew to draw back and officials to switch to cabin-protection mode.

Butch and Nancy Johnson of Delta Junction were listening anxiously to scanner traffic to hear if their cabin was going to burn. The Johnsons said their recreational cabin is in the fire's path.

''It all depends on the wind,'' Butch Johnson said.

Twenty years of work will be reduced to ashes if the winds are contrary, but the Johnsons said they have faith Division of Forestry firefighters will do everything possible to save their cabin and the others in a 5-mile radius.

About 75 cabins line the Goodpaster, but most are along the lower reaches of the river.

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