Alaska Wildfires: Reinforcements Set to Arrive to Help Battle Blazes

by The Associated Press /

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Another 300 firefighters are joining the fray in Alaska against wildfires that threaten rural highway communities north and south of Anchorage.

The ground reinforcements expected Wednesday from Lower 48 states and Canada — plus additional support staff and aircraft — will help battle blazes near the communities of Willow on the Parks Highway about 40 miles north of Anchorage and near Sterling on the Sterling Highway about 60 miles south of Alaska's largest city.

Both fires were human caused and have displaced hundreds of residents.

A third fire, begun by lightning Sunday, threatened an Alaska Highway community. The fire has burned 500 acres on an island in the Tanana River island three miles northwest of the village of Dot Lake. Water-scooping aircraft, fire retardant tankers and helicopters with water buckets joined 94 firefighters on the ground Tuesday to keep the fire from jumping the river.

Much of Alaska is in the middle of a late-spring heat wave that followed record-breaking temperatures in May. Temperatures reached the mid-80s in southcentral Alaska. Low humidity and a forecast of dry thunderstorms Alaska kept authorities on high alert.

The human-caused Sockeye Fire grew Tuesday but consumed no new structures around Willow. The fire started Sunday and has blackened 12 square miles along the Parks Highway, the main route between Anchorage and Fairbanks.

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