Firefighters defend Alaska resort from advancing wildfire

·2 min read

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A wildfire burned close to a vacation destination in interior Alaska on Tuesday, but fire officials believed Chena Hot Springs Resort would be spared.

“They’re pretty confident that they’re going to be able to defend the resort, based on the measures that we’ve set up and the personnel we have on scene,” said Tim Mowry, a spokesperson for the Alaska Division of Forestry.

Firefighters were working to protect the resort, homes and recreational cabins in the area about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northeast of Fairbanks.

Flames were about 100 yards (91 meters) from the resort, where crews were spraying water on buildings, the agency said in a statement. Firefighters also conducted a back burn near a trail that leads to two yurts for viewing the northern lights in hopes it would help stop the fire from advancing toward the main buildings.

Hoses and sprinklers also were set up at nearby homes and cabins.

No structures in the Chena Hot Springs area have burned, fire officials said. Light showers that fell overnight weren't enough to put out the fire, but the increased humidity helps slow its growth.

The Fairbanks North Star Borough on Monday issued a voluntary evacuation order. Alaska State Troopers conducted a survey of homeowners and cabin users and found that about 30 people decided not to leave.

Resort owner Bernie Karl also declined to evacuate, but it was unclear how many guests or other resort employees remained, Mowry said.

Karl told The Associated Press last week that after fire threatened the resort in 2004, he put metal roofs on all the buildings, added fire lanes around the resort and bought fire protection equipment, including two firetrucks.

The lightning-sparked wildfire was first reported June 18 about 5 miles (8 kilometers) south of the resort.

Since then, it has grown to just over 40 square miles (104 square kilometers). Last Friday, winds pushed the fire across a ridge, and it began a slow descent on the other side toward the resort.

As the flames creeped toward the resort Monday, people lounging in the resort's rock pool “cheered as trees torched as they were watching it come down," Mowry said.

Mark Thiessen, The Associated Press

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