Several fires plague Mat-Su over Memorial Day weekend

Three new fires in the Matanuska Susitna Borough were sparked over the long weekend. On Monday, fire crews were called out to two fires in the Palmer area.

Despite the area being under a burn suspension, both of the fires were human-caused on private land, when residents chose to burn debris piles. Forestry crews from Palmer responded to those fires, which were declared contained.

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Photo by Robbie Shade (Flickr: 4am fire alarm)
Photo by Robbie Shade (Flickr: 4am fire alarm)

Crews responding to the third fire found that it was caused by a smoldering holdover from last year’s Sockeye Fire. Sara Sarloos, a spokesperson for the division of forestry, said firefighters quickly responded.

“We got a call about a smoldering area that was deep in the interior of the old Sockeye burn,” Sarloos said. “And our engines responded, what they found was an ash pit that apparently had burned throughout the winter. And they took action and declared it out within the first hour of them being there.”

Sarloos said this is the first holdover fire from last year’s event, but it is not uncommon for fires to smolder that long.

“One of the things that happens with our fires, especially when it burns in black spruce, with the deep moss, is that the fires can burn really deep into that organic matter, and hole up, if you will, throughout the winter.”

Fires have been known to holdover for even longer periods. A fire on the Kenai was sparked recently by the two-year-old Funny River fire.

A wildfire near Eagle River on Friday was fought by both the Anchorage fire department and division of forestry crews. Sarloos said it is under investigation.

“The fire was human caused by suspicious means, so currently we’ve put an outreach out to the community that if they had seen anything suspicious during that time frame to give us a call here at forestry and we will follow up,” Sarloos said.

Sarloos says the Eagle River fire was burning in an area that is not known as a place where people camp.

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APTI Reporter-Producer Ellen Lockyer started her radio career in the late 1980s, after a stint at bush Alaska weekly newspapers, the Copper Valley Views and the Cordova Times. When the Exxon Valdez ran aground in Prince William Sound, Valdez Public Radio station KCHU needed a reporter, and Ellen picked up the microphone. Since then, she has literally traveled the length of the state, from Attu to Eagle and from Barrow to Juneau, covering Alaska stories on the ground for the AK show, Alaska News Nightly, the Alaska Morning News and for Anchorage public radio station, KSKA elockyer (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  |  907.550.8446 | About Ellen