Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Point MacKenzie Road fire 1pm 5/28

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

POINT MACKENZIE ROAD - For now the northerly winds are helping firefighters on the Point MacKenzie Road fire. The 20 mph winds are bumping the head of the fire into a wet bog, where air tankers continue to drop fire retardant. Officials estimate that 700 acres have burned. Two structures with foundations were burned. Officials are still not certain if the structures were homes or cabins. One structure was two-stories, log-framed, and 1800 square feet, built in 1964. The second structure was a single story, built in 1950. Both were near Solid Rock Road. Two firefighters had minor injuries last night. The fire began at 5:40 pm Saturday under a high tension powerline 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. 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 by 5 pm today. Both McDonald and Krill said that resources responded quickly but crews immediately encountered "very extreme" fire behavior that was difficult to contain. 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. The unified command will transition at about 2 pm when a mix of federal and state personnel out of Fairbanks will manage the fire.