Matanuska-Susitna Borough

Two hotshot crews contain Sunset fire

Mat-Su | Patty Sullivan | Monday, May 22, 2006

MAT-SU BOROUGH - The fire north of Knik Goose Bay Road that burned down a three-story house appears to have started in or near the house, according to Central MAT-SU Fire Chief Jack Krill. Krill said a pilot flew north of mile 12 at Knik Goose Bay Road and saw a black column of smoke, the house fully involved, and the woods burning around it. A tractor, two vehicles, and a generator shed also burned. One man is homeless and getting help from the Red Cross. Some 19 acres burned in a remote area off Carmel Road, south of Sunset Avenue. Ten years ago the state's most destructive fire, the Millers Reach fire, burned through this same area. The same fuels fed yesterday's fire: black spruce, brush, and grass. But the lack of wind kept the fire from running. Fire officials contained the fire today at 5:30 pm. Krill said hose was placed all around the fire, and two skilled crews with 22 members each were working on it. The Tazlina Hotshots and the Midnight Sun Hotshots are adept at saw work and digging lines. One Central MAT-SU tanker was shuttling water to the fire all day Tuesday. "They're working the two flanks of the perimeter right now. Once the perimeter is out and contained, they'll start moving in toward the center," Krill said. About 40 firefighters from fire stations across the Borough worked with the Division of Forestry crews. "We had good coordination between the Borough and Forestry. It was just a seamless operation," Krill said. Two helicopters dumped 175 to 300 gallon-buckets of water from nearby lakes on the flames. The fire was burning in the direction of Big Lake and Meadow Lakes. The night of the fire, Emergency Services Director Dennis Brodigan said engines and tankers were staged north of the fire, ready to respond if the fire broke away. To the south, firefighters poured thousands of gallons of water on the flames. An air tanker from Fairbanks made four drops of 500 gallons of retardant, helping firefighters get a handle on the fire. Forestry crews remained on the fire overnight. A smoke jumper crew from Fairbanks was diverted from the Sunset fire to one 20 miles northwest at Flat Horn Lake, where three acres have burned and a cabin was lost. A fire initially estimated to be 30 to 50 acres began at the time of this press release near Fort Richardson. The Division of Forestry has suspended burn permits and burn barrel fires in the MAT-SU. A Red Flag Warning is in effect and now encompasses the Matanuska and Susitna Valleys. High winds and low humidity could cause local fire dangers to become very high in certain location ns with rapid rates of fire spread in very dry fuels. Weather is expected to be about the same for the next few days. For more information contact Central MAT-SU Fire Chief Jack Krill at 373-8805.