Officials Say Sockeye Blaze Likely to Linger

A community meeting at Houston Middle School drew about 275 people of all ages on Wednesday. A curtain down the center of the school gym separated those at the meeting from Sockeye fire evacuees who were living in the Red Cross shelter located at the school.

The curtain did little to drown out the sound of a basketball bouncing and doors slamming on the other side, although meeting–goers were quiet and respectful, while a roster of state and local fire officials explained what their jobs entail, and how they are working with the fire response team to get the fire contained and ultimately put out.

That objective may be a long time in coming.

Russ Long, fire operations section chief from Fairbanks, who arrived on scene Monday. Long said the Sockeye fire is “not one of those fires that you just approach at the heel, and work in.” He said the fire has to be fought from inside the perimeter.

But, Long said, conditions look better than they did when he arrived. “But don’t mistake that for the fire is almost out.” Looks can deceive, and he commented that Alaska fires go underground and smolder, even when they look as if they are out. Crews will be working from within to locate those smoldering areas, Tom Kurth, incident commander, said. He said 500 people are working on the fire’s interior now, and that is why “we are holding on to this evacuation area now, Kurth told the crowd. Kurth says fire officials are working with state and local law enforcement to maintain the evacuation order.

Casey Cook, Mat Su Borough emergency services manager, told homeowners that they can leave their phone numbers with a list of Borough tax id’s he provided at the meeting, so that the Borough can call back and tell them the status of their house.