- Associated Press - Saturday, May 24, 2014

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Increasing numbers of firefighters are battling a wildfire that has covered 105 square miles on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.

The Funny River Fire burning in the 1.9 million-acre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge was 15 percent contained Friday, said Brad Nelson, a spokesman for the Alaska Interagency Management Team, which includes the state Division of Forestry and federal and local officials.

He said there have been no evacuations. Still, an evacuation readiness advisory was issued Friday afternoon for a subdivision in the community of Kasilof on the Sterling Highway, Alaska wildfire officials said. That’s a warning that residents should be ready to leave if an actual evacuation order is issued.

Nelson described the fire as “crawling” toward the subdivision, made up of about 100 lots.

About 375 firefighters are assigned to the fire, with that total expected to rise to between 400 and 500 this weekend.

The Alaska Division of Forestry says a burn ban has been issued for the Kenai Peninsula, prohibiting open fires. The area remains a tinderbox with unseasonably warm spring temperatures and dry vegetation.

Fifty miles northwest of the Funny River Fire, and across Cook Inlet, 108 people continue work on the nearly 3-square-mile Tyonek Fire. Firefighters continue to conduct burn-out operations to protect natural gas pipelines and a natural gas power plant at Beluga that supplies power to Anchorage.

Much of the containment effort for the Funny River Fire is concentrated on the fire’s north and west sides.

The fire’s west side runs parallel to the Sterling Highway and the community of Kasilof.

A “dozer trail” within the refuge, created by bulldozers backed by crews with hand tools, stretches about 9 miles long to create a fire break in the northwest corner of the fire, Nelson said. Other crews are working on the fire’s more remote southwest corner and will eventually meet in the middle of the west side, Nelson said.

“They’re going to work the entire west flank,” he said.

Four water-scooping aircraft were dumping water to keep flames out of Kasilof, he said.

The fire has reached much of the north sides of Tustumena Lake, a 25-by-6-mile body of water that drains runoff from the Tustumena Glacier. An Oregon fire crew was moved in to assist smokejumpers protecting Bear Creek Subdivision, a neighborhood accessible by water or air on the east side of the lake about two miles from the fire’s edge.

Nelson said fire officials conducted two meetings Thursday night to provide information. Besides fighting fires, responders have been fighting rumors, he said.


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