Fires quiet, but air advisory remains

Posted: Thursday, August 08, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Cooler temperatures and scattered showers helped slow the spread of several Interior fires Tuesday, but smoke continued to blanket much of the Fairbanks area.

The state Department of Environmental Conservation warned Tuesday that, because of the smoke, air quality will be unhealthy to very unhealthy for the next several days across the Tanana Valley unless the weather changes significantly.

''People with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly and children should avoid any outdoor activity,'' the DEC notice said. ''Everyone else should avoid prolonged exertion.''

The most heavily staffed blaze, the Ketchem Creek Fire near Central, grew little from the last estimate of 4,300 acres. A total of 124 people, including managers, are working on the fire, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center in Fairbanks.

Smoke hindered efforts on other fires, including the 27,100-acre North Fork Fire, 25 miles northeast of McGrath. Poor visibility continued to restrict the use of aircraft, so personnel and supplies were ferried in by boat. About 140 people are working on the fire.

New mapping on the Geskakmina Fire, burning 75 miles west of Fairbanks, raised the total acreage burned to 180,700 acres. Smoke jumpers and others, aided by helicopters, worked to protect structures at several lakes south of Manley.

The Milepost 78 fire, between Livengood and Minto, was burning less than a mile from the Elliott Highway. The fire has so far burned nearly 112,000 acres. Motorists heading to Minto are urged to use caution.

There are 56 fires burning in the state. So far this year 1.45 million acres have burned, the greatest since 1997, according to the fire agency.

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