In response to an evacuation notice issued to certain Murphy Dome area subdivisions just after midnight Sunday, the Red Cross of Alaska has set up an evacuation shelter at Randy Smith Middle School to help Fairbanks residents displaced by the Shovel Creek Fire burning north of Fairbanks.
Even with increased crews attacking the blaze, the Shovel Creek Fire expanded on several fronts Saturday, spreading eastward into Blueberry Creek and south toward Murphy Creek. The blaze has grown to approximately 5,568 acres with 550 personnel fighting the fire.
Residents of the Martin and Perfect Perch Subdivisions were instructed Saturday night and early Sunday morning to evacuate as soon as possible. Many went to Randy Smith Middle School.
Shayne Jones, Red Cross Far North and Interior disaster program manager, told the Daily News-Miner on Sunday morning that about 23 residents came through the shelter in the early morning hours.
"We had quite a few people come by, basically for information and to see what they could do as far as evacuating," Jones said.
Families began arriving at about 1 a.m., Jones said, with most using the shelter as a waiting area as they arranged other lodging. By about 3 a.m., all but two had cleared out.
The two over-nighters left the shelter early Sunday morning, and as of about 10 a.m. Sunday, the shelter waited, empty but ready.
"We will continue to stay open as long as there is the threat of evacuation," Jones said. "As long as there is a Level 3, we will remain open, or until the borough tells us different."
The middle school, located at 1401 Bainbridge Blvd., is set up with water, snacks and cots in the gymnasium for those who don't have somewhere else to go.
"We also have disaster health services here. We have a nurse here who volunteers. So if you have medical issues or you need to be advocated for, if you lose your medication for example, we can help," Jones said.
The shelter is not accepting animals with the exception of service animals, one of which stayed at the shelter Saturday night with its owner, Jones said.
A temporary pet shelter has been set up at the Tanana Valley Fairgrounds. Arctic German Shepherd Rescue also has volunteered to house animals temporarily while other arrangements can be made.
As of Sunday afternoon, the Martin and Perfect Perch subdivisions remained in full evacuation mode; any residents who remain are urged to leave immediately. The Lincoln Creek, McCloud and Murphy subdivisions have been raised to a Level 2 evacuation alert, meaning residents should be ready to leave at a moments notice; and residents in the Chatanika River corridor are currently set at a Level 1, meaning residents should be preparing for a possible evacuation and gathering belongings.
Craig Lant, a resident of the Perfect Perch subdivision, was impressed to find fire crews lining up hose and sprinkler systems on his property.
"These crews showed up here and the guys did a bunch of saw work, laying down hoses for sprinklers to keep it wetted down once it gets close," Lant said. "I had no idea they even did this, so it's nice to see. Very much appreciated."
As the sound the chainsaws could be heard in the background, Lant walked along his property cleaning up brush and debris in an effort to keep the ground clear should the fire draw any closer.
"I'm just trying to help the guys get the yard cleaned up a little bit," Lant said. "Other than that, it's kind of just hurry up and wait. This wind here is making me a little nervous, but we don't see any planes, nothing hot yet."
The Alaska Incident Management Team hosted a community meeting Sunday evening at the Ken Kunkel Community Center in Goldstream Valley to give area residents a fire update. Fire personnel will be present at the meeting to provide information.