Crews race to attack Mat-Su fires before winds pick up over the weekend

Crews continued aggressive operations on both the McKinley and Deshka Landing Fires Thursday.

Favorable firefighting weather allowed crews working the McKinley Fire to continue directly attacking the flames.

The fire’s estimated size was reduced to 3,752 acres due to more accurate mapping, fire managers say.

On the Deshka Landing Fire, hotshot crews and helicopters with water buckets worked to build a line along the southern edge of the fire.

While the eastern side of the Deshka Fire is closest to neighborhoods - less than a mile away in some places - it’s cabins near Red Shirt Lake south of the fire that are of greater concern due to the available fuel and the fire’s behavior.

The bottom half of the fire is dense with timber.

“The winds that we’re going to see this weekend, the predicted winds, are 10 to 15 miles and hour from the North and Northeast. So this lower half of the fire down here is in heavy timber, the fire has worked its way into the ground. It’s very difficult to quickly put out and if we get some strong winds it could start to move again,” said Alan Hoffmeister, Public Information Officer for the Deshka Lansing Fire. “How fast depends on a lot of conditions, but our goal is to hook this south end of the fire and try to put a line there using water with pumps and hoses to keep it from moving significantly further.”

In addition to forecasted winds, fire managers hope to avoid conflicts with any hunters in the area.

“One of the things that we’re concerned about is hunting season opens this weekend for moose. This is a very popular hunting area and we are very concerned that if people go in there to hunt and start shooting their guns, we’re going to have to pull people away. We just can’t take that kind of risk,” Hoffmeister said. “We’re doing our best to let people know that if you want to hunt, go someplace else, not in this area around the fire.”

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