An incident command post has been set up at Houston High School in a new offensive against the Sockeye fire. The state division of forestry has a staging area at the school, and on Tuesday,June 16, Fire information officials held a parking lot press conference. Tom Kurth, Sockeye fire incident commander, said the fire had gained one thousand acres since Monday, and is now [as of 3pm on Tuesday ] over 7500 acres. Kurth said crews coming in are attempting to set up a safe anchor at the North end of the fire, to begin offensive action. But the fire’s gains are on three sides, the Eastern perimeter, the Northwest and the Southern tip.
“We still have a lot of potential for the fire to move, however the containment lines that we are trying to establish, at least we are getting familiar with what it’s gonna take to slow this fire down. There is a lot of structures still at risk there, there are a lot of values inside the perimeter here, so those are of the utmost concern.”
Kurth said the priority for firefighters at this point is to protect structures, protect the Alaska railroad, and keep the Parks highway open. He said the number of structures destroyed has grown, along with the fire’s spread.
“As mentioned, there’s somewhere between 50 and 100 structures that have been lost. Now that is a very loose survey that is done by drive by now. We’ll try to get a more accurate accounting from the Borough which has records for that. But I do want to qualify that a structure can be as small as 40 square feet, so that’s not homes and residences, it’s outbuildings and that sort of thing. We’re trying to get a good information base as to where any structural loss is taken care of, we’re assigning that to the Mat Su Borough.”
He said firefighters who have been working so far are reaching fatigue limits, but new crews just arrived will be on seen shortly. Five hot shot crews have arrived from the Lower 48 to get to work on an offensive against the fire by establishing containment lines for stablization.
“The next 48 hours we’ll start to gain some ground and turn from this more defensive posture into what we like to say is an offensive workload where we start to go direct on a lot of that line there. We do have heavy equipment up on the North end where we have established some line there and now we’re plumbing that with pumps and hoses to make sure we can secure that. ”
“We are getting familiar about how to approach the fire”, Kurth said.
The Parks highway, closed at times since Sunday, is open at intervals to traffic that is being let through the fire area by pilot cars. A new Parks highway information recording is now at 907-761-3700, fire officials said.