Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Point MacKenzie Rd Fire 7 pm 5-28

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Saturday, May 27, 2006

POINT MACKENZIE ROAD 7:00 pm May 28 - The northerly winds that have been helping firefighters have slowed down after driving the head of the fire into a wet bog, where air tankers dropped fire retardant throughout the day. Officials estimate that the size of the fire has leveled off at approximately 700 acres burned. Alaska Division of Forestry Type Two Team out of Fairbanks will transition to take over work on the fire at 10 pm tonight. A Type Two team provides greater resources to the fire such as additional man power, more water tenders, and other resources beyond the capability of local fire services. The Red Flag warning may expire at 9 pm tonight, depending on weather factors. The public is urged to continue to consider fire danger to continue. The fire began at 5:40 pm Saturday under a high tension power-line at mile five on Point MacKenzie Road, located past the community of Knik off mile 17 of Knik-Goose Bay Road. Central MAT-SU Fire Chief Jack Krill suspects a tree was on the line. Krill and the Division of Forestry's Norm McDonald gave a press briefing outside the command post at noon today. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough and the state Division of Forestry are managing the fire under a unified command. About 150 firefighters responded last night (Saturday), including five departments from the MAT-SU, Chugiak Fire, Anchorage Fire, and Forestry. By 10 pm last night the fire hit the swampy Goose Bay State Game refuge. Two structures were burned. Two firefighters had minor injuries last night. McDonald said if the winds hold as they are, crews could contain the fire in a few days. He said if the wind switches to either coming out of the southwest or southeast it could cause problems. Firefighters have been in place protecting some homes along the right and left flanks of the fire. Firefighters are closely monitoring and protecting about 26 homes located beyond the perimeter of the fire. Officials are hoping to surround the perimeter of the fire with a hose line this evening. Both McDonald and Krill said that resources responded quickly but crews immediately encountered "very extreme" fire behavior that was difficult to contain. Low humidity and winds greater than 20 mph last night were blowing the fire south through dense black spruce. Krill said fire stations in the MAT-SU have been staffed since last Thursday in anticipation of such a weekend. Normally MAT-SU responders are called in to a fire. McDonald also said an air tanker from Canada was brought in ahead of time because of the dry, dangerous conditions. McDonald asked residents to check large burn piles that were set in the winter. One such pile reignited because of the wind at Point MacKenzie last night. He also asked pilots to help call in reports of smoke but to also stay clear of the air space so helicopters and air tankers can do their work.