Wildfires cause delays on two Alaska highways

A smoke plume from the McKinley Fire burning along the Parks Highway seen from the highway on Sunday. Photo by Maureen Clark/Alaska Division of Forestry

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) Active wildfires along the Parks and Sterling highways have prompted closures and delays.

The McKinley Fire, burning near milepost 88 of the Parks highway, has approximately 1,800 acres as of Sunday and at least 50 structures. The Parks Highway was closed over night while the fire jumped the highway. The fire continues to burn along both sides of the highway. Evacuations are in place for the area around the fire and there is heavy fire traffic in the area.

The Parks has been reopened to one lane of traffic with a pilot car between miles 71 and 99 of the Parks. There is extensive delays along the Parks and Department of Transportation officials are urging people traveling from Anchorage to Fairbanks to take the Richardson Highway.

“It’s going to take you a long time to get through that section between miles 71 and 99 as of this morning,” said Meadow Baily, Communications Director for the DOT. “That’s really why we would advise people to take an alternate route. You’re going to have a lot of delays as you wait to get through the queue of traffic. And then it’s going to take a long time to get through that section where they have the one lane of traffic and they’re ferrying people through with a pilot car. So if you can take the Glenn, Richardson Highway if you are on your way to Anchorage and go that route instead, or take the Denali Highway and cut across to the Richardson, we advise people to take an alternate route.”

The hot dry weather across the South Central Alaska has also caused the Swan Lake Fire to become active again. The Sterling highway coming from Kenai was closed last night but as of noon today has been reopened.

Fire officials are urging drivers to drive slowly and with their lights on and not stop along the roadway. Depending on fire activity, travel could be reduced to escorted, one-way travel or halted again.

Anyone traveling in the affected areas is encouraged to check 511.alaska.gov for the most recent road conditions.

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