Better Weather Gives Crews a Leg Up on Alaska’s Sockeye Wildfire

Cooler weather and higher humidity dealt an ace to firefighters battling the Sockeye wildfire in Alaska, which is now more than half contained, fire officials said Sunday. Evacuation orders were lifted, and residents were returning without incident, they said.

The fire started a week ago and exploded to cover 6,500 acres near Willow, north of Anchorage, within nine hours a week ago. Since then, hot, dry conditions have hampered fire crews that raced to the scene from across Alaska, the Lower 48 states and even Canada.

But the improving conditions have limited the growth of the fire, which was at 7,264 acres Sunday. Containment leaped from just 5 percent on Friday to 53 percent Sunday, according to the state and federal joint incident response team.

While isolated pockets of black spruce on the fire's southwest side continue to burn, no more structures are threatened, authorities said. Willow Creek Campground is expected to reopen to the public Monday.

IMAGE: Sockeye Fire
A fire worker checks smoldering remains Sunday from the Sockeye Fire near Willow, Alaska. NATIONAL WILDFIRE COORDINATING GROUP