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Cool Weather Gives Interior Firefighters a Break Over Memorial Day Weekend

KUAC file photo

The cool, rainy weather that set in over the weekend throughout the Interior reduced the danger of wildfires. But local and state firefighters were kept busy responding to one structural fire and some smaller wildfires around Fairbanks.

Investigators are looking into the cause of a structural fire that heavily damaged a home in North Pole early Sunday. North Star Volunteer firefighters responded just after 1 a.m. Four family members in the house just off Peridot Road escaped injury, but their home was heavily damaged.

Wildland firefighters mostly got a break over the Memorial Day holiday, after a couple of weeks of red flag warnings due to high fire danger.

State Forestry Division spokesman Sam Harrel says, however, the agency dispatched crews to several small Fairbanks-area fires.

“Despite our rain and cool weather this weekend, we still had a few fires around Fairbanks,” he said. “We had a fire on Chena Pump, a fire on campus, fire out toward Chatanika. And these two were small fires that were immediately extinguished.”

Harrel says Forestry responded to quickly because the fires were in developed areas that could’ve posed serious threat to people and property if they weren’t quickly extinguished.

“These were all full-suppression areas that we get right on and take care of those fires, due to residences in areas and critical resources and such,” he said.

Harrel says that’s why Forestry called in aerial support for the Eielson Farm Fire that was reported just before noon Sunday near the intersection of Eielson Farm Road and Old Valdez Trail.

“They called a retardant plane in, and that plane made two drops on that,” he said. “And crews on the ground were able to control and contain that.”

Firefighters are monitoring that fire, which burned just over an acre, along with another nearby that burned about 2 acres earlier in the week.

Meanwhile, Harrel says residents of Tok and Mentasta are dealing with heavy smoke that blew in over the weekend from the cluster of wildfires burning on the Kenai Peninsula. The biggest of which was the Funny River Fire, reported at about 123,000 acres as of Sunday afternoon.

“Ash was in the smoke in the Copper River Valley area. They were reporting heavy smoke, visibility to 20 feet in some places,” he said.

But the rainy weather gave residents of the Delta Junction area a break from smoke generated by two big fires burning on military training ranges west of the Delta River.

Tim has worked in the news business for over three decades, mainly as a newspaper reporter and editor in southern Arizona. Tim first came to Alaska with his family in 1967, and grew up in Delta Junction before emigrating to the Lower 48 in 1977 to get a college education and see the world.