Conditions Challenging As Funny River Fire Grows to More Than 140,000 Acres

Amid strong winds and dry conditions the Funny River fire has continued to advance through the weekend. State Fire Information officer Michelle Weston said this evening that the fire has grown well past 140,000 acres although she did not have a new estimate. Weston said the Funny River Road community has been under an evacuation order since 2 p.m.

State Troopers and fire crew workers went door to door in the Funny River community to alert residents of the evacuation. Weston did not know how many residents lived in the area but said there are at least 1,000 structures there, mostly cabins and the homes of retirees. Weston did not know if homes have been affected but said there have been no reports of injuries. The Fueding Lane Road area is also included in the evacuation order.

Weston said the Lower Skilak lake campground is currently being evacuated. State park officials are conducting that evacuation.

Spot fires have jumped the Kenai River prompting an evacuation watch for the Kenai Keys area. Weston said starting at Mile 103 of the Sterling highway to the Kasilof River is under evacuation watch for residents on the east side of the road. An evacuation watch means residents should prepare to leave if an evacuation order is necessary. Weston said Kenai Peninsula Borough officials are using a reverse 911 system to alert residents of  evacuation plans.

About 450 people are working on the fire. Weston said crews with water scooping planes from Canada and fire crews from the Lower 48 are assisting, as is the Air National Guard, bringing in two Black Hawk helicopters.

“We’ve thrown everything we have at this fire at this time but the wind is strong and erratic .We have fire crews from the lower 48 but conditions are challenging.” Weston said.

 

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Lori Townsend is the News Director for the Alaska Public Radio Network. She got her start in broadcasting at the age of 11 as the park announcer of the fast pitch baseball games in Deer Park, Wisconsin.

She has worked in print and broadcast journalism for more than 18 years. She was the co-founder and former Editor of Northern Aspects, a magazine featuring northern Wisconsin writers and artists. She worked for 7 years at tribal station WOJB on the Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibway Reservation in Wisconsin, first as an on-air programmer and special projects producer and eventually News Director.

In 1997 she co-hosted a continuing Saturday afternoon public affairs talk program on station KSTP in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Radio brought her to Alaska where she worked as a broadcast trainer for Native fellowship students at Koahnic Broadcasting. Following her work there, she helped co-found the non-profit broadcast company Native Voice Communications with veteran Alaskan broadcasters Nellie Moore, D’Anne Hamilton, Len Anderson, Sharon McConnell and Veronica Iya. NVC created the award-winning Independent Native News as well as producing many other documentaries and productions. Townsend was NVC’s technical trainer and assistant producer of INN.

Through her freelance work, she has produced news and feature stories nationally and internationally for Independent Native News, National Native News, NPR , Pacifica, Monitor Radio, Radio Netherlands and AIROS. Her print work and interviews have been published in News from Indian Country, Yakama Nation Review and other publications. Ms. Townsend has also worked as a broadcast trainer for the Native American Journalist’s Association and with NPR’s Doug Mitchell and as a freelance editor. Townsend is the recipient of numerous awards for her work from the Alaska Press Club, the Native American Journalists Association and a gold and a silver reel award from the National Federation of Community Broadcasters.

Townsend was the recipient of a Fellowship at the Metcalf Institute for Marine and Environmental Reporting in Rhode Island as well as a fellowship at the Knight Digital Media Center in Berkeley.

She is an avid reader, a rabid gardener and counts water skiing, training horses, diving and a welding certification among her past and current interests.

ltownsend (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8452 | About Lori