The Alaska Railroad cancels passenger service between Anchorage and Denali Park due to McKinley Fire –

The Alaska Railroad cancels passenger service between Anchorage and Denali Park due to McKinley Fire -
New wildfire breaks out near Homer
ANCHORAGE, (KTUU) – Alaska Railroad announced its stopping all passenger service between Anchorage and Denali Park because of the McKinley fire north of Willow.

In a press release, ARRC says the fire jumped the Alaska Railroad tracks on Saturday night near ARRC MP 205 and continues to burn on both sides of the tracks. A number of burned trees have fallen on the tracks and crews are in the process of removing downed trees and are monitoring the situation.

"Alaska Division of Forestry and Matanuska-Susitna Borough personnel are still working to account for residents who chose not to evacuate their homes or go to an evacuation shelter," the agency said in a press release late Sunday night. "Forestry, borough and Red Cross officials are working to determine how many structures were lost but specific details about structures that burned are not currently available."

ARRC says on Sunday 200 passengers were taken by motorcoach from Anchorage to Denali and Talkeetna with another 150 expected to be moved north today. 140 southbound passengers from Fairbanks, Denali, and Talkeetna were rerouted to Fairbanks by motorcoach after several hours of delay due to Parks Highway closure. Those passengers along with an additional 100 passengers will be moved south by motorcoach today, dependent on Parks Highway openings.

The North Fork fire was burning Sunday about 1.5 miles east of the Sterling Highway between Mile 165 and 164. (Alaska Division of Forestry)

Alaska has been baking under record-high temperatures and other extreme weather this summer. July was the hottest month ever on record for the state. There may be some relief in sight – the mercury dropped to 37 degrees Monday morning at Fairbanks International Airport, according to the National Weather Service.

A wildfire about 6 miles northwest of Homer continued to grow Monday, and some neighborhoods were put on notice to be prepared for potential evacuation, authorities said.

Firefighters and air crews battled the North Fork Fire, which grew to 25 to 30 acres Monday. The blaze is between North Fork Road and Diamond Ridge Road.

Ten hot shot crews and other assets from the Lower 48 were set to arrive in Alaska Monday afternoon to assist with the McKinley Fire and two others burning in the state. The Alaska National Guard and state highway patrol were also assisting.

People living along North Fork Road north of the fire and in communities along Diamond Ridge Road to the south were placed on a level 1 ready evacuation notice due to the fires movement, state agencies said in an update on Alaskas wildfire information website.

The fire was sparked on Saturday afternoon when a tree was blown into a power line. The fire continued to grow Monday and had burned about 4.6 square miles of land, the forestry service said in its latest update.

The fire was reported at about 6:45 p.m. Sunday and was estimated at 6 to 7 acres Sunday evening, authorities said. Fire activity was described as running through open grass and brush with pockets of spruce trees in difficult terrain,” the state said.

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The fire was about 1.5 miles east of the Sterling Highway between miles 164 and 165 and moving south due to unpredicted northerly winds, the Monday web post said.

Fire managers are concerned that if the fire continues to move south, it will reach an area with continuous spruce trees that are very receptive to burning, especially after the continued hot and dry conditions experienced in the area this summer, the post said.

[Strong winds push smoke from Swan Lake fire to Kenai communities, closing trails and public cabins]

The nearest structure was about a mile and a half from the fire, but it was not immediately threatened as of Monday afternoon, authorities said. The fire was burning off a trail, which made access difficult but not impossible for firefighting vehicles.

About 20 firefighters from the Alaska Division of Forestry, Kachemak Emergency Services and the Anchor Point Fire & Emergency departments responded to the blaze, the state said, plus two helicopters with water buckets.

The North Fork Fire joins much larger Alaska fires farther north on the Kenai Peninsula and in the Susitna Valley. Two aircraft responded to the North Fork fire from the nearby Swan Lake fire to help the suppression efforts.

This story was updated to clarify that the fire is closer to Homer than it is to Anchor Point. It was also updated to reflect that the structure nearest the fire was a mile and a half away, not a half mile away.

Posted in Anchorage