Lightning Strikes Ignite Nearly 50 New Fires

Dozens of new wildfires are burning around interior and western Alaska, as widespread lightning continues to cause new starts. An Alaska Interagency Coordination Center report listed 47 new fires Monday morning, with 186 active blazes state-wide.

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Among recent days new fires getting attention are 2 on either side of the Parks Highway near Anderson. Firefighters are battling what’s being called the Rex Complex fire. The report estimates the combined burn area at nearly 5 thousand acres. Fire Information Officer Andrea Capps says the fires have threatened populated areas.

Caps says the Nenana River lies between the fire and the community of Anderson, and response to the blaze is ramping up as a Type 2 management team from Washington State takes over operations and more resources are diverted to the fire along the Parks Highway.

Many of the other recent new lightning starts are in more remote areas of the interior, but a few are near villages. A new blaze that started Saturday near Northway along the Alaska Highway has quickly grown to 9 thousand acres. Tok area Division Forestry spokesman Jim Schwarber says winds are pushing the flames away from the village and parallel to the Highway.

“The concerns we have are the potential impacts of the fire on the travel corridor there — the corridor for traffic on the Alaska Highway,” Schwarber says. “We are making preparations to have flaggers and pilot cars on scene if safety requires their use to keep the traffic flowing there.”

Schwarber says there have been smoke impacts but so far the fire is far enough from the road not to be an issue. He says a management team has taken over the fire response.

The Card Street Fire near Sterling on the Kenai Peninsula is 25 percent contained after destroying 11 structures. The Sockeye fire near Willow is now 79 percent contained.