Montana Creek Fire update for July 4th, 2019

Aerial view of the Montana Creek Fire on Wednesday night. (Photo by Katie Writer, KTNA - Talkeetna)
Aerial view of the Montana Creek Fire on Wednesday night. (Photo by Katie Writer, KTNA – Talkeetna)

7/4 3:38 p.m.: We just heard from Incident Commander Ken Barkley that the Mat-Su Borough will be returning to a “Level 1: Ready” evacuation alert. He says the portion of the fire that shifted unexpectedly earlier this afternoon is being handled, and conditions have become safer. He also says that conditions mean that the situation can change quickly, and that anyone residing near the Montana Creek Fire should be prepared in case conditions worsen.

7/4 2:34 p.m.: Latest update from akfireinfo.com: “The fire is now pushing toward the south and it is torching on the east. Crews have stopped the fire at Montana Creek Road. They are reinforcing that containment line with retardant drops and have been able to hold the east and west flanks of the fire.”

7/4 1:54 p.m.: According to incident commander Ken Barkley, the Montana Creek Fire has grown and shifted westward unexpectedly. The borough has elevated its evacuation alert to the “Level 2: Set” level. That means anyone on Montana Creek Road should be prepared to evacuate within minutes if need be. There is not yet an evacuation order, and air assets are being deployed to stop the fire continuing to grow. Barkley says the Blackhawks being deployed should improve the situation rapidly. Montana Creek Road is now closed to incoming traffic, but people in the area will be allowed to leave.

7/4 1:43 p.m.: From Mat-Su Emergency Management: “Montana Creek Fire Update

Due to the fire shifting directions, Mat-Su Emergency Services is initiating a Level 2 – Set Evacuation Alert, as a part of the Ready Set Go Program.

This is not a evacuation order this is for residence of the area to be prepared in the case an evacuation is necessary and we want you to be ready to leave on short notice.”

We’re currently working to get more details on the updated evacuation alert.

As of this morning, the Montana Creek Fire is estimated at 250 acres. Incident commander and Mat-Su Borough Emergency Services Director Ken Barkley says he feels the crews currently “have a handle” on the fire, but he cautions that things can change quickly in the dry, hot conditions.

Alaska Division of Forestry spokeswoman Stephanie Bishop says, as of Thursday, there are no reports of injuries or structures lost to the fire.

Currently, the fire is zero-percent contained, and is 90% surrounded by retardant.  In firefighting, containment is a specific term that refers to a state where a perimeter has been established and supplied by a hose line.  Bishop says the priority for today is to continue initial attack on the Montana Creek Fire.

Access to Montana Creek Road is currently being restricted by the Alaska State Troopers.  Troopers are allowing homeowners into the area to access their property, but the general public is being kept out.

Ken Barkley says evacuation of the Montana Creek area is not currently anticipated, but he advises that area residents be ready to leave if the need arises.

There are 138 personnel working the fire in addition to multiple aircraft.  Crews include firefighters from Forestry, local fire departments, and the Baker River Hotshots from Oregon, who also fought fires near Montana Creek during the Sockeye Fire of 2015.

Currently, there is a burn suspension in the Mat-Su, meaning any fire that requires a permit, including burn barrels are not allowed.  Fireworks are also not allowed at this time.  Ken Barkley advises that people avoid any burning at this time.  Dry, hot conditions are forecasted to continue into the weekend.

Barkley says the large amount of resources that were available to deploy to the Montana Creek Fire were critical to the efforts made thus far.  He says officials are concerned about the potential for additional fires, as firefighting resources are currently stretched thin.

Officials will continue to provide updates throughout the day at akfireinfo.com.  KTNA will also provide updates on their Facebook page and at KTNA.org.