Update: Tuesday 10:30 pm
The Sockeye Fire did not grow on Tuesday, and firefighters are reporting “really good progress” on containing the northern portion. Low winds kept the size steady, but people are still not allowed back to their homes.
“Wind is like the wheels of the fire,” explained Alaska Incident Management Team Information Officer Sarah Saarloos. “You have to have wind to have fire growth.”
The fire is pretty static with no aggressive runs or crowning and no substantial acreage growth. They hope to have containment within a day or so. It is currently zero percent contained.
About 300 firefighters are on the ground trying to stop the Sockeye Fire, and they have air resources. Saarloos said the incident management should have all of the resources they need by Thursday, unless crews are diverted to fight other fires in the state.
Saarloos said tonight’s storms did not bring much rain, but they brought lightning strikes to the area north of the Sockeye Fire. Firefighters aggressively attacked them to prevent their growth.
The evacuation order remains in place because of high levels of heat in the interior of the fire. They are trying to secure areas to allow people back in. The Parks Highway is open to traffic, though vehicles must be led through the area with a pilot car. There is not much smoke in the area at this time.
Incident responders are concerned about the long-term weather forecast – no rain in sight for the next five to ten days.
Detailed maps are available through Alaska Wildland Fire Information.
Original Post: Tuesday, 5 pm
The Sockeye Fire burning north of Willow is now the number one priority fire in the country. At least 400 firefighters will be on scene by the end of Tuesday.
Fire information officials held a parking lot press conference at Houston High School, which is serving as the command post, this afternoon.
Tom Kurth, Sockeye fire incident commander, said crews coming in are attempting to gain a safe anchor at the north end of the fire and begin offensive action.
He said the fire – which started Sunday afternoon – is advancing on three sides; the eastern perimeter, the northwest corner and the southern tip.
“We still have a lot of potential for the fire to move,” he said. “However… t least we’re getting familiar with what it’s going to take to try to slow it down. There are a lot of structures still at risk, there’s a lot of values inside the perimeter so those are of upmost concern.”
Kurth said the priority is to protect structures, protect the railroad, and keep the Parks Highway open. Kurth said the number of structures destroyed has grown, as well.
“There’s somewhere between 50 and 100 structures that have been lost. That’s a very loose survey that’s been done by drive-by… but I do want to qualify that a structure could be as small as 40 square feet.” Structures could include greenhouses and even some chicken coops.
Kurth said firefighters who have been working so far are reaching fatigue limits, but new crews that had just arrived would soon be on scene.