As evacuations are issued, some residents decide to stay

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FAIRBANKS, Alaska - Intense heat of the weekend caused the Shovel Creek Fire to grow dramatically Friday and Saturday. Just after midnight on Sunday borough officials issued a 'Level 3: Go' evacuation for the Martin and Perfect Perch subdivisions, telling residents to leave immediately.

The Lincoln Creek, McCloud and Murphy subdivisions remain at a 'Level 2: Set' stage.

Incident Commander Norm McDonald said that they have points set up where if the fire passes they will update the evacuations levels for threatened areas.

"When it reached that the other evening, we made the decision, it was around midnight. 'Level 3' for two of the subdivisions which called for evacuation," McDonald said.

Borough Emergency Operations established Randy Smith Middle School as an evacuation shelter with the Red Cross to help residents of the 52 structures in a 'Level 3' evacuation stage. The Tanana Valley Fairgrounds have been set as an emergency shelter for any pets or livestock.

Even with the evacuations, some residents decided to stay at their homes.

"We're going to stay. I've talked to the firefighters and as much as we have cleared around the house here, as defensible as this is, it should be in good shape," said Perfect Perch resident Karl Kassel.

Kassel said he built his home with wildfires in mind by clearing much of the brush and landscaping with rocks instead of grass. He has also moved any combustible items away from the house. He said he has a storage container buried underground that he can store his valuables in. Kassel has solar panels and a wind mill that will keep his electricity running and his water pump working.

Crews have been working to install sprinklers and hoses properties threatened by the blaze. The weekend rains brought a much needed reprieve to the fire. Crews are taking advantage of the break and working to strengthen fire lines and continue property protection.

"We are figuring we will get 24 to 48 hours of much more mellower conditions, that's going to give us a chance to get some of our primary line in," McDonald said.

The fire has burned more than 10,000 acres and there are over 500 personnel combating the blaze. The fire was being managed by the Type 2 Alaska Incident Management Team but control will be turned over to a Type 1 Management Team in the coming days.

Fire officials expect this to be a long term fire and with another heat wave coming at the end of the week, fire activity will once again pick up.

Smoke from the fire is expected to continue to cover much of the Fairbanks area in the coming future.