A more than standing room only crowd jammed the Pleasant Valley Community Center Saturday evening, many standing in entryway's, others poking their heads through
windows to listen to fire service, and Fairbanks North Star Borough officials on the state of the 32 thousand acre Stuart Creek 2 Fire burning out of control in their area.
Fire service, law enforcement and the borough were well represented, but many in attendance, well aware of who they thought were to blame for causing the fire, wondered aloud
"Where was the military, and why aren't they here to explain?"
Explaining fell to the one person in the room capable of doing just that.
Colonel Ronald Johnson, Fort Wainwright Garrison Commander, took the microphone and confirmed what many in the room had already
"We are responsible for causing the Stuart Creek Fire," said Johnson.
Johnson also confirmed information that aired Saturday in a KTVF Channel 11 report that Army officials had been denied waivers to perform
live ammunitions exercises in the area where the fire originated near Eielson Air Force Base.
"We were denied the waiver, and felt we could still go on with the exercises," said Johnson. "When the fire first started, we thought we
had it under control, but we didn't."
According the Kent Slaughter, a spokesman for the Bureau of Land Management, he said the Army asked for the waiver, but was denied
due to extreme weather conditions, and a "high probability" that a fire could start.
"It's not the first time we've denied a waiver, and organizations have gone on with their intentions anyway," said Slaughter. "They took
a chance, and it just didn't work out for them."
Fire officials say an evacuation advisory remains in effect for residents living between Mile 14 to 32.
They say their major concern centers around what they call "extreme" weather scheduled for Sunday.
"That's our big concern," says Richard Hadley, a Public Information Officer with the California Incident Management Team, that assumed
command of the fire on Friday. "If we can get to Monday, where its supposed to rain, we may get some relief."