The Shovel Creek Fire grew to 10,639 acres Sunday, nearly doubling from the last report, before some rainfall helped give fire crews a break across the state, but according to officials, this is not expected to last.
There were “very active” fire conditions Sunday on the lightning-caused Shovel Creek Fire, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center Situation Report, but these were slowed by the rain. While cooler weather is expected today, a high pressure front is expected to bring hot and dry weather back at the end of the week.
Jacob Welsh, public information officer for the Shovel Creek Fire, said, “It’s going to be hot and dry again. That will dry the fuels out and bring us back to where we were before. We are by no means out of fire season.”
Sunday’s rain was not as widespread as officials hoped, and once the hot weather returns, fuels are expected to dry out again in one to three days, according to Beth Ipsen, spokesperson for Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service.
Evacuation alerts were called this weekend after the Shovel Creek Fire made a run toward neighborhoods on its southeast flank.
There are 52 structures in the Martin and Perfect Perch subdivisions, which are all under Level 3, or “Go,” evacuation areas. Residents of Lincoln Creek, McCloud and Murphy subdivisions are advised to be ready to evacuate, and are in Level 2, or “Set” evacuation areas. Those in the Chatanika River corridor are advised to be “Ready” to evacuate. Officials are assessing other properties farther east to determine whether they need to be added to the evacuation list.
The Red Cross set up an evacuation shelter at Randy Smith Middle School and began receiving evacuated families early Sunday morning. The shelter remains open, as does the pet shelter at the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds.
About 560 personnel are working the Shovel Creek Fire, including support, crews and engines, coming from a variety of federal, local and state agencies. According to Welsh, roadblocks in evacuated areas will be staffed by Alaska National Guard members at the intersections of Perfect Perch and Old Murphy Dome Road, and Spinach Creek and Murphy Dome Road.
Murphy Dome itself is being used as a large staging area. The public is advised to stay away, to allow the crews to work.
Contact staff writer Cheryl Upshaw at 459-7532