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.
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.
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.