Crews work to contain 13-acre wildland fire burning in East Anchorage woods

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A wildfire reported Thursday afternoon near Campbell Park sent clouds of smoke into the sky and caused road closures in the area.

The fire, reported just before 3 p.m., had grown to approximately 13.1 acres and was 30% contained by 8 p.m. Thursday, according to the Anchorage Office of Emergency Management, citing updated fire mapping. It was reported burning in a wooded area off Dowling and Elmore roads, said Anchorage Assistant Fire Chief Alex Boyd. No structures were immediately threatened by the blaze, he said. A number of municipal buildings, homes and a softball complex are located nearby.

Twenty units from the Anchorage Fire Department were on scene Thursday afternoon and resources from the Division of Forestry, including two engines, were also sent to the area.

Sam Harrel, acting statewide information officer for the Division of Forestry, said early Thursday evening that crews were getting the fire knocked down. The division had two helicopters dropping water on the blaze, as well as two retardant tankers and firefighters on the ground laying down hoses and working to get the fire contained.

The Pioneer Peak Interagency Hotshot Crew also responded from Palmer, Harrel said.

“The effort’s pretty strong right now,” he said.

A third helicopter was also sent from Nenana to aid in firefighting efforts, Harrel said.

In a Thursday evening update, the forestry division said the fire had been “boxed in” by the retardant-dropping aircraft, which were released in order to be available to respond to other fires in the state. The hotshot crew was working to put water hoses around the fire Thursday evening, according to the division.

Other forestry division crew members from Palmer joined the effort Thursday, and one of the helicopters was released from the scene.

According to the division, crews will remain on scene overnight.

Corey Allen Young, a spokesman for the mayor providing information about the fire on behalf of the emergency management office, said resources from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson were on scene Thursday as well.

The Anchorage Police Department, which initially described the blaze as a brush fire, outlined a series of road closures caused by the fire: Elmore Road was closed to southbound traffic between East Tudor Road and Dowling Road; East Dowling Road was closed west of Elmore Road; 68th Avenue and Elmore was closed; and northbound traffic was closed off at MLK and Tudor Centre Drive. Shortly before 8 p.m. Thursday, the Office of Emergency Management said on social media that roads would be reopening to traffic and asked drivers to give crews enough space to work.

Boyd had asked people to stay away from the area so crews can work to contain the fire.

“This is an all hands on deck operation,” Young said.

It wasn’t immediately clear what caused the fire, which burned near the site of a human-caused fire in 2019 that prompted evacuations of area homes. Hot, dry conditions in Anchorage increased fire danger on Thursday, and a burn ban was implemented throughout the city.

Harrel said that with conditions such as they are, this fire had the potential to be more serious if not for the strong response by multiple agencies.

“With the weekend weather forecast, it’s only going to escalate the fire risk,” he said, urging people to be careful.

The Anchorage Office of Emergency Management said Thursday night that fully extinguishing the fire and cleaning up hot spots would take an estimated three to four days.

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