A wildfire that began two days ago near Anchorage, Alaska, has blazed through nearly 8,000 acres (3,200 hectares) of land. The fire started near the town of Willow, a hotspot for dog sledding and part of the Iditarod trail. More than 500 sled dogs have been rescued from kennels and homes in the area.
Some mushers ignored official evacuation warnings in order to rescue their dogs. ”The troopers may not have been very happy, but we had to go,” said Kathy Chapoton, whose 52 sled dogs were chained in her yard, in an interview with local news station KTUU.
A highway connecting Anchorage and the northern city of Fairbanks was closed yesterday as the fire raged. Firefighting crews from other states traveled to Alaska to help control the burning, using helicopters to drop flame retardants and water. As of yesterday afternoon, officials said the fire was “0% contained.”
A separate wildfire ignited yesterday afternoon near Sterling and the Kenai river, farther south and west of Willow. At least 200 homes had to be evacuated, and six buildings were destroyed.
Many Alaskan wildfires occur each year in unpopulated areas, and are usually left to burn out naturally. Two wildfires on the tundra last week were initially allowed to burn, but their rapid spread forced firefighters to intervene. Current weather conditions—temperatures above 80 degrees fahrenheit, high winds, and low humidity—have put half the state at high risk for wildfires.
The past winter was warmer than usual, and this spring there wasn’t enough snow in Willow for the famous Iditarod race to start there, as it usually does.