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Hastings Fire at 2,100 acres; crews battling smaller fires east of Fairbanks

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Posted: Wednesday, June 1, 2011 1:16 pm | Updated: 12:59 pm, Wed Jan 16, 2013.

Updated 2:45 p.m. with comments from fire officials, more details.

FAIRBANKS - A wind shift brought smoke from Interior Alaska wildfires into Fairbanks today, as the fires continue to grow amid dry conditions.

The Hastings wildfire 15 miles northwest of Fairbanks has grown to 2,137 acres and is moving north, according to officials.

Five firefighting crews from Oregon, Idaho and Washington arrived Tuesday night. More than 200 firefighters are now battling the blaze in an effort to keep it north of the Chatanika River.

At times, the fire exhibited extreme behavior, including torching and a running crown fire, as it moved through trees and up a ridge. More than 100 fire personnel are assigned to the fire.

A temporary flight restriction has been posted for the airspace over the fire, and commercial and private pilots are asked to watch out for firefighting aircraft in the area.

The Fairbanks area received just 0.04 inches of rain in May, making it the third driest May on record. Only the months of May in 1915 and 1925 were drier, said National Weather Service meteorologist Corey Bogel.

He said April also was extremely dry.

"We are dealing with a very dry forest that hasn't seen a soaking rain, and it does not look like there is any soaking rain in the near future," Saarloos said.

Temperatures were expected to remain in the mid-70s, with relatively low humidity and winds between 8 and 10 mph. Those factors, as well as a hilly terrain, likely would cause the fire to grow, she said.

Firefighters were prepared to provide basic structure protection and hand out sprinkler kits if the fire began moving toward homes and cabins, Saarloos said.

Four smaller fires sprang up in the Fairbanks area on Tuesday.

The Chena Rec fire, which was burning between Chena Hot Springs Road and the Chena Flood Control Project, consumed 0.1 acre of land before being put out by a crew of five soon after it started.

The Anaconda Creek Fire, located in the Little Chena River drainage north of 18 Mile Chena Hot Springs Road, has grown to 50 acres, with 28 firefighters attempting to contain it.

The Flat Black fire, which was reported late Tuesday night, is near the South Fork of the Chena River, south of 28 Mile Chena Hot Springs Road. It has consumed one-half acre in a full-suppression area. Approximately nine people are working on it.

The Chena Dome Fire, also reported Tuesday night, encompasses 10 acres and is being treated as a limited suppression fire. A limited suppression level means that no structures are in danger and there will be no firefighting efforts unless conditions change. The fire is being monitored.

Northeast of Delta Junction, the East Volkmar Fire has grown to 22,000 acres and is expected to continue to grow rapidly. More than 200 personnel are onsite and nearby cabins are being protected.

High winds and low humidity helped a human-caused fire at Coal Creek near Healy grow to nearly 27,000 acres by Tuesday night. About 24 personnel are battling the blaze.

Buist said hundreds of firefighters are fighting the fires.

"We are probably in it for the long haul here," he said.

A new fire was reported burning in the Wrangell-Saint Elias Park and Preserve about 20 miles west of the town of McCarthy. The initial attack involved two air tankers dropping water on the blaze. More firefighters were expected to arrive Wednesday afternoon, officials said.

According to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, 53 fires were burning Wednesday in Alaska. So far this year, 270 fires had burned 135,696 acres.

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