A fast-moving wildland fire north of Willow forced the evacuation of residents and closed the Parks Highway on Sunday.
As of late Sunday evening, the Sockeye Fire was estimated at 6,500 acres and was burning on both sides of the Parks Highway, running due south. The fire was in the Crystal Lakes Road subdivision as of midnight.
One firefighter was treated for heat exhaustion.
The voluntary evacuation area extends from milepost 63 to milepost 78 of the Parks Highway. Between that stretch of highway the evacuation area stretches west to the Susitna River and two miles east of the Parks Highway. Some 1700 residential structures are in the evacuation area.
The Parks Highway will be opened as firefighting and public safety allow. Expect periodic closures over the next few days and pilot cars guiding traffic through.
The Matanuska-Susitna Borough is handling evacuation procedures. Information regarding evacuations is available through the Borough emergency operations center at (907) 761-3700.
The Borough is holding a press conference at noon at the Borough Assembly Chambers at 350 E. Dahlia in Palmer.
Some 210 residents signed in at the evacuation centers in Houston, near Talkeetna, and at Wasilla Fish Hook Bible Camp. Shelters are at Houston Middle School at mile 53 on the Parks Highway, and the Upper Susitna Senior Center at mile 99 on the Parks Highway.
The fire was reported as a 2-acre fire on the west side of the Parks Highway on West Sockeye Avenue at 1:15 p.m. and quickly grew despite aggressive action taken by the Alaska Division of Forestry and Borough responders. Multiple aircraft were dispatched to the fire to drop retardant and water on the fire. State Forestry firefighters from Palmer also responded. Three initial attack fire crews were dispatched to the fire from Palmer, Kenai and Fairbanks. Close to 200 emergency personnel from multiple agencies are responding to the incident.
Additional fire resources are en route. Five hotshot crews from the Lower 48 have been ordered for the fire and are expected to arrive today. Fire managers expected the fire to calm down overnight but continue to spread before picking up again on Monday.
The fire is is under investigation. The cause is unknown.
Photo provided by Jenelle Butters.
Smoke from the fire was visible from Anchorage and residents as far south as the Kenai Peninsula will likely be impacted by smoke. Air quality advisories can be found at http://dec.alaska.gov/Applications/Air/airtoolsweb/Advisories.
A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is in effect over the fire area. Local pilots can check for information about the TFR at http://tfr.faa.gov/tfr2/list.html.
This news release from AK Div. of Forestry and the Mat-Su Borough.
Patty Sullivan, PIO, Mat-Su Borough 761-3700. The borough facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/MatSuBorough