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KNBA News - McHugh Fire update

by Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media, and Joaqlin Estus, KNBA Anchorage

The McHugh wildfire continues to burn uncontained south of Anchorage.

Both lanes of the Seward Highway were opened last night [Tuesday]. Falling rocks, dense smoke, and fire activity near the road do create hazardous conditions so officials are asking people to avoid the area from Milepost 108 to 113.

Motorists should use caution and be alert for firefighting equipment and personnel on the road. In addition, motorists should not slow down or pull over to take pictures or watch fire activity, as that endangers other motorists traveling on the road and causes congestion. Yesterday, when the highway was closed to one lane, state agencies were reporting 3-hour delays as pilot cars led vehicles down a 10-mile stretch of road.

Officials have gone door-to-door to alert area residents and put them on standby for evacuation. In the event of an evacuation, residents will be notified by personnel from the Anchorage Police Department. Residents can also sign up for alerts from the police and fire departments at http://www.nixle.com.

Crews are battling the fire to keep it from damaging structures in nearby neighborhoods. They’re clearing vegetation around homes and laying out some pumps and hoses.

The Anchorage Department of Health and Human Services has issued an air quality alert for South Anchorage, Turnagain Arm and Portage Valley. The smoke can affect children, the elderly, and people with respiratory problems. 

The FAA has put a temporary flight restriction in place above and near the fire.  

More than a hundred personnel are fighting the fire, and five new  hotshot crews are expected in today. 

The fire is an estimated 500 acres, burning along a ridge top and within view of the highway. 

There is a burn ban in place for Anchorage, the Mat-Su Valley and Kenai Peninsula. Only closed barbeques and fish smokers are allowed.

A press conference is planned for 10 a.m. at South High School.

The wind is dying down today and it’s cooler than yesterday, both of which helps firefighters, and light showers are expected tonight.