Alaska village, subdivision evacuated due to fire

Alaska village, subdivision evacuated due to fire

28 May 2010

published by

USA — More than 100 homes in an eastern Alaska village and nearby subdivision were evacuated as firefighters tried Thursday to slow a fast-moving wildfire.

“We definitely had some growth during the day,” said fire information officer Sarah Saarloos in Tok, about 12 miles east of the Eagle Trail fire.

The fire was first reported Wednesday at five acres. It had burned 2,000 acres by Thursday afternoon.

Evacuation of the 50 homes in the village of Tanacross, about 170 miles southeast of Fairbanks, started Wednesday night with people boarding a bus. The approximately 60 homes in the Eagle Subdivision also were evacuated as a precaution, fire officials said.

Many evacuees were staying with friends and family in Tok, while about a half-dozen were at the Tok school, Saarloos said.

There were no reports of injuries or structures burned. Forestry officials were asking anybody not living in the area or associated with firefighting to steer clear.

Temperatures in the 80s and low relative humidity, as well as thunder clouds that were creating swirly afternoon winds, made for ideal wildfire conditions.

Saarloos said about 150 firefighting personnel were working on the blaze and more were being requested. The fire was among the highest-priority blazes nationally.

Forestry officials have called for all available resources in the state, including air tankers, helicopters, dozers and more firefighters.

Alaska drivers headed into Canada were being told to use an alternate route because sections of the Alaska Highway were shrouded in smoke. Saarloos said the highway 26 miles west of Tok was not closed as previously reported, but emergency personnel were providing escorts to drivers.

“People got to see to be able to drive safely,” she said.

The fire took off in unusually hot and dry conditions in what is shaping up to be an early start to the Alaska wildfire season.

According to the Division of Forestry, a private pilot reported the fire Wednesday. The blaze quickly grew to more than 1,700 acres.

Just two hours after the fire was reported, it had crossed to the north side of the Alaska Highway, just west of Tanacross. It spread over 90 acres in just over one hour, fire officials said.

Fire managers warned that lighting overnight could spark more fires.

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