By Joaqlin Estus
Gusts of 30 to 35 miles per hour have kept the McHugh Creek fire just south of Anchorage going, but light showers forecast for this afternoon are expected to help.
As of 7 p.m. Yesterday, the fire was 842 acres. Blackhawk helicopters have been dropping bucket-loads of water to keep it from moving closer to area structures. It’s about a mile from Potter Valley to the west and the Rainbow Valley subdivision to the east.
Five hotshot crews from the lower 48 arrived yesterday [Wednesday, July 20] and will go to work on the fire today, relieving Alaskan crews who have been battling the blaze since it started Saturday afternoon.
The Seward Highway is open, however officials have closed turnouts along the highway, and urge motorists to be cautious driving through the area and not to slow down or stop to watch or photograph the fire.
The FAA has issued a temporary flight restriction to give space to airplanes and helicopters working the fire.
Officials held a meeting at South High School last night to update community members. Area residents have been put on evacuation alert. If an evacuation order is issued, the Anchorage Police Department will go door to door to alert residents. You can also receive alerts via nixle, at nixle.com. An evacuation center has been set up at the Spenard Community Recreation Center at 2020 48th Avenue and supplies are on hand if other centers are needed. Officials have set up places where people can leave their pets during an evacuation.
Smoke from the fire is drifting into Anchorage, creating a health hazard for children, the elderly and people with respiratory problems, who are advised to avoid strenuous activity outdoors and keep their windows closed.
Rain is in the forecast for this afternoon and coming days, which officials hope will dampen and ultimately douse the McHugh Creek fire.