Fires north and south of Anchorage close highways, trigger evacuations

Photo of Swan Lake Fire taken late Saturday (8/17/19) evening from Sterling Highway. (Photo courtesy of AKFireInfo)

Fueled by winds and dry, warm conditions, wildfires burning Sunday to the north and the south of Anchorage crimped or closed highway traffic in both directions, brought evacuation notices and warnings about unhealthy air quality.

High winds breathed new life into the Swan Lake fire over the weekend, pushing it across the Sterling Highway Milepost 60, according to the Alaska Wildland Fire Information website. Alaska State Troopers said Sunday afternoon the highway will be closed until Monday.

The Kenai Peninsula Borough, which is posting regular updates online, warned Cooper Landing residents to be ready to evacuate. Air quality in the area was listed as “very unhealthy.”

The McKinley Fire is currently burning near Mile 91 of the Parks Highway. It was estimated to be 150 acres, mostly on the east side of the highway, the Alaska Division of Forestry said. No structures had burned as of Sunday morning. An evacuation notice was in effect from mileposts 88 to 93. The Red Cross has set up evacuation centers.

The Deshka Landing Fire is burning near Mile 68, about 4 miles west of the highway. Sunday morning it was estimated to be between 600 and 1,000 acres, moving southeast. The fire has reached Rolly Creek. Alaska State Parks officials evacuated South Rolly Campground and cabins on Red Shirt Lake. The Nancy Lake Parkway is closed at mile 2.2.

The Parks Highway is open to one-lane traffic with a pilot car leading vehicles from mileposts 88 to 93, the division said.