- Associated Press - Thursday, July 21, 2016

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Light rain fell Thursday as nearly 300 firefighters worked to gain control of a wildfire threatening two subdivisions south of Anchorage.

Crews hoped the initial rain would slow the flames but officials said it was not heavy enough to have much impact on the blaze burning on steep terrain near cliffs overlooking Seward Highway.

“It’s going to take more than just a little rain to put it out,” fire information spokeswoman Celeste Prescott said. “Unfortunately, it also makes for a more treacherous terrain for our firefighters.”

Heavier rain was expected overnight.

Meteorologist Mike Ottenweller said the forecast called for at least three-quarters of an inch of rain.

“It should certainly aid in suppression efforts,” he said.

Moisture on the sharply sloped terrain was expected to create slick, muddy conditions on rocks that have been loosened from burned vegetation.

Fire crews already have been hampered by scores of toppled spruce trees that were killed by beetles. They also were slowed earlier this week by reported bear activity.

New mapping showed the blaze had nearly tripled in size to about 1½ square miles. Prescott said it has not grown much since Wednesday and was still about a mile from the two subdivisions. There were no immediate plans for evacuations.

Prescott said the fire was 5 percent contained. Firefighters got a break with milder temperatures after dealing with days of hot and dry conditions.

Smoke from the fire was drifting into Alaska’s largest city, bringing the pungent smell of a campfire.

Winds gusting to 25 mph were expected by late afternoon before tapering off by evening.

The blaze was sparked Saturday and officials said it was likely human-caused, noting the area is heavily used for recreation. The fire has been burning in an area that includes a steep hiking trail in Chugach State Park.

The Seward Highway was down to one lane earlier this week, but all lanes were open Thursday. That could change, however, because rain-loosened debris had dropped onto the highway, officials said.

Among those fighting the fire were hotshot crews from California who arrived in Alaska on Wednesday.


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