Hess Creek Fire crosses Elliot Highway; Shovel Creek evacuees headed back home

The Hess Creek Fire, the largest fire currently burning in the US, crossed the Elliot Highway north of Fairbanks (Courtesy Inciweb)
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Residents of the Martin and Perfect Pitch neighborhoods, which were evacuated because of the Shovel Creek Fire, reopened Wednesday at 12:00 p.m. after firefighters completed a five-day long firing operation to burn up the fuels in advance of the fire.

Watch a video of the Shovel Creek wildfire from Division of Forestry here.

Crews continue to work to shore up the dozer line, but they have a new concern: dry lightning and 30 mph forecast for Thursday and Friday.

The air quality is also a concern, with levels around Fairbanks still in the "Very Unhealthy" range.

North of Fairbanks at the Hess Creek Fire, the blaze has now crossed the Elliot Highway around Mile 62 leading to dangerous driving conditions. Department of Transportation has left the highway open, but drivers should expect low visibility and delays for emergency vehicles.

As winds subsided Tuesday evening, managers were able to make a more accurate estimate of its acreage and dropped it down to 149,428 (yesterday it was reported at 172,000). Still, it is the largest wildfire in the United States.

Managers say that 25 structures are threatened, and three outbuildings have been destroyed.

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