Interior Alaska Ablaze With Lightning-Ignited Fires

Smoke is spreading over a large area of the state, as wildfire activity grows. There were 56 new wildfires Monday statewide, and 238 active, mostly in interior and southwest Alaska.

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One of the top priority blazes in the interior is the Rex Complex Fire, burning off the Parks Highway north and south of Anderson. Alaska Interagency Coordination Center public information officer Timothy Evans says the complex consists of two fires: the over 4,000-acre  Fish Creek blaze, north of Anderson, and the much larger Kobe Fire to the southwest.

Evans says firefighters focus is on structure protection, adding that some homes have already been lost.

Meanwhile, Evans says two fires north of Fairbanks, off the Elliot Highway prompted evacuations in the Eureka area, while another blaze far to the west, threatens the Yukon River village of Nulato.

The fire spotted into Nulato yesterday, but Evans says fire fighters were able to save the community.

Numerous other interior blazes continue to crop up daily, primarily due to lightning. Those close to structures are getting responses, while others burning unchecked in remote country send smoke into populated areas. The 13 thousand acre Blair Fire, 40 miles south of Fairbanks is blamed for a dense haze that blankets the city.  With so many wildfires raging, Division of Forestry spokesman Jim Schwarber says the response is getting more complex.

So far this season, just under 500 wildfires have burned 324,000 acres, an early season total Schwarber describes as relatively modest.

National Weather Service meteorologist Don Aycock says fire conducive weather is forecast to continue this week, and smoke is expected be an issue for several days.

Aycock says some weather anticipated for later in the week could help the situation, and that weather systems could bring rain to the eastern Alaska Range and interior, but its unclear if that will extend west to Fairbanks.