Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Wildfire in Sterling - here we go again!

This week has been one of a lot of sun and HOT weather. Unusually hot for our area of Alaska. We rarely get into the 80s and yet we're going to hit them all this week. It's dry, hot, not humid... it's the perfect combination for fire...

... and we have one.

Around 1:30 yesterday a fire started basically where the Funny River Fire last year ended. It's threatening the homes and cabins of several friends of mine - as well as an Iditarod Champion's kennel (though the Sterling Highway is so far keeping the fire from them). When I went to bed last night the estimated damage was at 640 acres, I woke up and that number is nearly doubled now at 1,200 acres. Thankfully the winds for us are not as bad as last year (or up in the Mat-Su area where the Sockeye River Fire has consumed over 8,500 acres in the Willow area and destroyed countless homes and kennels).

There are three major fires in the South Central region, and resources were all pointed at the Willow fire until last night. We still don't have the majority of help for our fire as the Willow fire is larger, uncontained, and threatening more residences. Unlike last year - homes have already been destroyed in the Card Street Fire in Sterling. Cabins, too, on the river were damaged or destroyed. Some had to evacuate by boat as the road was impassible at one point.

Two time Iditarod Champion Mitch Seavey and his family are on heightened alert as the fire is just across the highway from their Sterling home and kennel. Conway posted photos on his facebook page throughout the night as he and friends helped people in line of the fire evacuate. Team Seavey reported they have plans A, B, and C in place should they need to pack up and get out of there, but so far the fire is moving in the opposite direction of where they are. So far. All it takes is a wind change.

Meanwhile, three time Iditarod Champion Dallas Seavey lives in Willow and is keeping an eye on that fire. The fire is just a few miles south of his home and kennel, and so far is moving in the opposite direction keeping his family and dogs safe. For now. But, again, all it takes is a wind change.

Other mushers in Willow have not been as fortunate, several - including DeeDee Jonrowe - have reported their homes and kennels as a total loss. Many have sought refuge at Martin Buser's Happy Trails Kennel in Big Lake. Nearly 20 years ago Buser was the one watching his livelihood and team threatened by a massive fire, so he's giving back and offering a place for dogs and mushers alike this time around.

There's no end in sight for either fire. Keep the responders in your prayers as well as those whose homes have been lost or are in harms way. Pray for rain. We need it. Just like last year, this is a devastating thing to have happen to our communities.

Smoke billows behind the Soldotna Forestry June 15, 2015.

Smoke column from the Card Street Fire could be seen
all throughout Soldotna, Alaska June 15, 2015.

Sterling Elem. was the site used for evacuees, but no one
opted to stay at the site. At time of photo 640 acres had
been burned. June 15, 2015

At 7:16pm it was 88 degrees in Sterling, Alaska. June 15, 2015

As with the Funny River Fire last year, smoke from the
Card Street Fire could be seen by the Kenai Beach.
June 15, 2015

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