- Associated Press - Friday, July 22, 2016

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A substantial rain began falling Friday over a wildfire near Alaska’s largest city, giving firefighters a continued break in the weather as they work to protect threatened homes on either side of the blaze.

A light sprinkle fell Thursday, helping fire crews start directly attacking the fire on steep and rocky terrain about 10 miles south of Anchorage. Officials said the plan Friday was for firefighters to continue containment efforts.

As of Friday morning, the blaze was 7 percent contained, fire information spokeswoman Sara Saarloos said.

The fire was sparked Saturday near cliffs overlooking the Seward Highway, the only road leading south of town.

The fire did not grow overnight and remains estimated at about 1½ square miles in size, fire officials said. It is still about a mile from each of two subdivisions.

“Yes, the rain is an extreme benefit for us to start getting a handle on this fire,” Saarloos said. The flipside of the rain is the possibility of rain-loosened debris dropping over the cliffs overlooking the highway if the area gets days of continuous rain, she said.

There have been no evacuations, and the highway remains open in both directions. Officials are urging motorists to be extremely cautious because of debris that has already been falling and because of fire crews near the road.

National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Kutz said as much as three-quarters of an inch of rain is expected to fall before tapering off a bit Saturday afternoon. Up to another half inch of rain is expected to fall again starting Saturday night through at least late Monday night, he said.

Even a half inch of precipitation should go a long way to suppression efforts, Kutz said.

Officials have said the fire 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.

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Follow Rachel D’Oro at https://twitter.com/rdoro

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