Mat-Su blaze ignites in dry grass, grows to 120 acres

Two firefighters discuss strategy at the Trumpeter Fire off South Trumpeter Drive in the Point MacKenzie area Wednesday afternoon, April 29, 2020. (Zach Overmeyer/Alaska Division of Forestry)

Firefighters are working to contain a wildfire that started in dry grass Wednesday in the Point MacKenzie area of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, southwest of Wasilla.

The Trumpeter Fire was spotted Wednesday afternoon by a pilot and quickly grew from an initial estimate of a couple acres to about 50 acres by nightfall. It had jumped up to 120 acres as of Thursday morning. That’s according to the Alaska Division of Forestry, which said crews had the fire about 40 percent contained by Thursday afternoon.

The fire reportedly threatened at least one structure, and firefighters worked Wednesday to protect it, the Division of Forestry said in a written statement. By Thursday, the structure was no longer in danger, and the fire was moving northwest, away from a residential area.

Sarah Saarloos, a spokesperson for the Division of Forestry at the fire Thursday, said the it is believed to be human-caused, and investigators are working to find its point of origin.

“We are in the time of the year that lightning would be very rare, so there hasn’t been any lightning reported in this area, and also, there’s no power lines, because it is an area that is off-grid, so we are somewhat able to rule those two causes out,” Saarloos.

Forestry officials said 50 firefighters were working on the Trumpeter Fire, including personnel with two Palmer-based teams of hot shots, as well as multiple fire engines and helicopters dumping water on the fire.

“They are going to be out here until they can get 100 percent containment, so that means a ring all the way around the fire so that fire won’t spread,” Saarloos said.

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It’s the second grass fire in the area in two days. Mat-Su area firefighters extinguished a one-acre patch of burning grass Tuesday that started with someone burning debris off of Point MacKenzie Road.

Firefighters were able to quickly contain that fire and stopped it from spreading into nearby trees, according to a written statement from the Division of Forestry.

“Both blazes are indicative of extremely dry conditions in the southern Mat-Su … right now,” the Forestry statement says. “With the snow melted and dead grass exposed, the surface fuels in the Palmer-Wasilla area are very receptive to any kind of ignition source.”

A burn ban for the entire state, with the exception of Southeast Alaska, goes into effect Friday.

With fewer out-of-state firefighting resources available amid the coronavirus pandemic, Forestry officials say the goal of the burn ban is to cut down on human-caused fires and limit the burden on in-state first-responders.