Nearly 150 firefighters battle Clear blaze

Posted: Wednesday, June 28, 2000

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Nearly 150 firefighters were battling a blaze Tuesday that has scorched 2,500 acres, a fire official said.

The fire near the Clear Sky subdivision was spotted Saturday by smokejumpers who flew over the area on their way to Fort Wainwright.

The blaze intensified Monday because of dry, windy weather and burned 1,200 acres covered by black spruce, birth and aspen trees. The fire had flames as high as 50 feet on its south side.

Cooler, more humid weather moved in the region Tuesday, easing the hazard somewhat, said Chris Maisch, northern regional forester for the Division of Forestry. Winds also had died down from gusts of 12 mph on Monday to about 8 mph on Tuesday. But Maisch cautioned that fires typically become more active in the evening, just as the blaze did Monday.

Crews on Tuesday used bulldozers to build a line on the fire's south flank, and also secured fire lines on the fire's west and northwest sides.

''Hopefully, they will be able to hold it with that,'' Maisch said.

The fire Tuesday afternoon was about two miles west of the Nenana River and southwest of Anderson between the town and the Teklanika River.

About 175 fire personnel were at the scene Tuesday, including 147 firefighters. They were being assisted by two fire engines, air tankers, six bulldozers and a helicopter.

Maisch said the fire was being given a high priority because of homes in the area. Five or six structures, believed to be cabins, were in the fire zone. It already had destroyed one cabin and fire retardant was placed around the others Monday in an effort to protect them.

''Sometimes that works, sometimes it doesn't,'' Maisch said.

No other cabins had been lost.

At least one local cabin owner appreciates their efforts.

Jim Paul, 56, of Anderson owns 40 acres and a cabin near the northwestern perimeter of the fire. Paul, who was helping fire officials read area maps, said his two-story cabin has been protected with fire retardant chemicals.

Fire officials were also monitoring fires at Bearpaw Mountain, near the Kantishna River. Authorities are also watching a fire at the Fort Wainwright Military Reservation and the Rock Creek fire near the Granite Tors Trail that has been burning for more than three weeks.

Air quality in the Tanana Valley was in the moderate to unhealthy range because of wildfire smoke. Children, the elderly, and people with respiratory problems or heart ailments were being advised to remain indoors.

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