Crews contain Anchorage wildfire that spread from burning home

Saw teams from Gannett Glacier Initial Attack Fire Crew based in Palmer worked throughout the night cutting saw line in thick brush bringing containment to 100 percent of the Zircon Fire on May 23, 2022. (Bryan Quimby/Gannett Glacier Initial Attack Fire Crew)

After rescuing a woman trapped on a deck, firefighters extinguished a wildland blaze on Anchorage’s Hillside overnight that started as a structure fire and spread into surrounding brush and trees amid windy and warm weather.

Aided with a helicopter dropping buckets of water on the flames, crews had the fire on Zircon Circle fully contained by about 1 a.m. Monday, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry. One person was reported as injured and transported to a local hospital, though they were treated and released within hours, according to the Anchorage Fire Department.

The quick work kept the fire to less than one acre, but further spread could’ve had much more severe impacts for residents of Alaska’s largest city living nearby in the foothills of the Chugach Mountains.

“Everybody in Anchorage worries about this exact scenario, because we all know that the fuels have been filling in every year,” said Kale Casey, a fire information officer with the Division of Forestry. “They’re going to keep growing every year, whether you like it or not.”

City firefighters were the first to arrive after the initial 911 call about 9 p.m. Sunday, and they used ladders to reach a woman stranded on a deck attached to an upper floor, Anchorage Fire Department Assistant Chief Alex Boyd said.

Still, the wind quickly sent pieces of burning material into the nearby woods, Boyd said.

“There was a heck of a lot of potential there, and as I was driving up to the incident last night, I was thinking, ‘Well this is going to be a lot of work. It’s going to be a long week or two is what this seems like it’ll be,'” he said.

But while they were battling the house fire, the firefighters also laid out hoses around the perimeter, so the wildfire’s growth was limited almost immediately, said Casey, with the Division of Forestry.

Then the Mat-Su Helitack helicopter repeatedly scooped up water to dump on the fire, and the Gannett Glacier Initial Attack Fire Crew used chainsaws to cut a line around it to stop any spreading flames, Casey said.

A burn ban remains in effect for Anchorage, along with warnings for much of Southcentral Alaska.

Fire officials are looking forward to a possible change in the weather ahead of the upcoming Memorial Day weekend, Casey said.

“We’re hoping to get cooler weather, we’re hoping we get moisture, but hope is not a strategy, as we say,” he said. “So everybody needs to be vigilant and we’re all definitely in this together.”

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Casey Grove is the host of Alaska News Nightly and a general assignment reporter at Alaska Public Media with an emphasis on crime and courts. Reach him at cgrove@alaskapublic.org.

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