ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Seward Highway was temporarily shut down Thursday evening as firefighters from Anchorage and Palmer responded to a small, slow-moving wildfire next to the roadway.
A bystander in the area noticed the fire near Mile 105 and reported it to the Anchorage Fire Department at around 6:40 p.m. Anchorage Fire Department responded with eight units and was later assisted by Division of Forestry crews based in Palmer.
When responders arrived on scene, the fire was estimated at about two acres in size and was moving slowly up the hillside. At one point, flames were on both sides of the highway. According to Station 10 senior captain Ryan Staten, some falling rocks were observed during the firefighting effort as well.
“The ground is still a little wet with the snow melt so it was a pretty slow-moving fire,” Staten said. “We got right on scene, flanked both edges of the fire and were able to extinguish it pretty quickly.”
Alaska State Troopers and Anchorage Police helped with traffic as firefighters worked to suppress the flames. The fire was declared under control after at around 8:20 p.m. Department of Forestry crews remained on scene to mop up the fire and locate any hot spots after AFD left.
“It was difficult because it’s right off the highway so the traffic is a huge concern for safety personnel that are working to extinguish the fire,” said DOF firefighter Jonathan Glover. “Because it’s on such a steep slope, there were a lot of rocks, rolling material and debris coming down. So it’s just safer to just shut down the highway so we don’t have boulders coming through and hitting rigs that are trying to pass by.”
Glover said the Palmer crew had already responded to multiple fires in the Mat-Su Borough on Thursday before they were called in to assist on the Seward Highway.
“This isn’t uncommon by any shape of the imagination but it is a little bit early for right down here in the Anchorage bowl area,” he said.