Wildfire threatens Elliott Highway

Posted: Monday, July 22, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- A wildfire is threatening the Elliott Highway in Alaska's Interior and the Alaska Fire Service was asking that travelers stay off the highway.

The Mile 78 Fire, which started May 23, flared up unexpectedly Sunday evening, said Priscilla Hammon, fire service spokeswoman.

''It's all this warm, dry weather mixed with a lovely wind blowing in the direction of the road,'' Hammon said. ''It doesn't take much.''

Neither the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, nor any homes or Native allotments are threatened. Fire crews checked on the fire three times on Saturday and deemed it inactive, she said.

But by Sunday evening a wind picked up and blew the fire into a thickly forested area. The fire has consumed 106,500 acres. Sunday evening a helicopter crew was dispatched to determine what equipment and which crews to put on the fire, she said.

Smokejumpers would likely be sent out to the fire, Hammon said.

''This has become the priority,'' she said.

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