Palmer Fire Out, No Homes Burned

Photo courtesy of the Mat-Su Borough

The community of Palmer is resting a lot easier now that a fire that burned Thursday is out. Dozens of people spent yesterday afternoon and evening at the the Palmer Senior Center worrying that the blaze might burn their homes. But, no homes were burned and the damage was minimal.

The blaze started Thursday afternoon when a truck hauling a trailer caught on fire after an accident on Palmer Fishhook Road near the Glenn Highway. The ground was dry with no snow and high winds quickly spread flames through brush to about 150 to 200 acres. Officials say a couple of outbuildings, a vehicle, a camping trailer and a backyard playground burned, but no homes were lost.

Photo courtesy of the Mat-Su Borough

Rick Downing lives in the Cedar Hills subdivision. He was in Anchorage when he got a call about the fire. He rushed toward home but roads were blocked and he was directed to the Palmer Senior Center.

“The hardest part of the whole experience was wondering if the fire was going to reach the house,” Downing said.

Downing was eventually allowed into his home briefly to grabbed personal items and a pet.

“We were here maybe 2 minutes – I grabbed our parakeet, our grandkids love that parakeet, so I figured better grab it – and computers and some personal belongings and headed to the senior center,” he said.

Downing says he got news his house was okay and was allowed to return home around 8 p.m. He was relieved to find the only sign of the fire was a smoky smell.

“We could smell the smoke but it wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be, at least in the house. The garage smelled a little smokier, it still has a smoke smell to it but I think that will go away,” Downing said.

And he says there was an upside to the ordeal.

“Mostly it was just sitting around the senior center and getting to know neighbors that we’d talked to before but had never really spent a lot of time talking to, that part was really good,” Downing said.

Photo courtesy of the Mat-Su Borough

Really good, he says, especially if there’s ever another emergency.

Stephanie Bass is with Red Cross of Alaska. She helped coordinate the command post and shelter at the Palmer Senior Center, where 40 or so residents evacuated.

“I just want to say that I couldn’t believe the amazing outpouring from palmer. From the citizens right round local and all the fireman that came out from many areas. It was fantastic to see how everybody pulled together – people that I don’t even know – people brought food or people just called in to see what they could do, so that was really great,” Bass said.

Fire fighters with the Division of Forestry are continuing to monitor the area, officials say. and they’re asking residents to refrain from any outdoor burning while a high wind warning is in effect through the weekend. Officials say the smoke and dust from the fire has made air quality worse. There is also an air quality advisory in affect for Palmer and Wasilla. The elderly, children and those with respiratory issues are advised to stay indoors until the wind subsides.

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Daysha Eaton is the News Director at KBBI in Homer. Daysha Eaton holds a B.A. from Evergreen State College, and a M.A. from the University of Southern California. Daysha got her start in radio at Seattle public radio stations, KPLU and KUOW. Before coming to KBBI, she was the News Director at KYUK in Bethel. She has also worked as the Southcentral Reporter for KSKA in Anchorage. Daysha's work has appeared on NPR's "Morning Edition" and "All Things Considered", PRI's "The World" and "National Native News". She's happy to take assignments, and to get news tips, which are best sent via email. Daysha became a journalist because she believes in the power of storytelling. Stories connect us and they help us make sense of our world. They shed light on injustice and they comfort us in troubled times. She got into public broadcasting because it seems to fulfill the intention of the 4th Estate and to most effectively apply the freedom of the press granted to us through the Constitution. She feels that public radio has a special way of moving people emotionally through sound, taking them to remote places, introducing them to people they would not otherwise meet and compelling them to think about issues they might ordinarily overlook.