The “8.5 mile” fire destroys a home, spreads to State Forest land

Eight Forest Service firefighters took over suppression efforts of the 8.5 Mile Fire mid-day Tuesday. (Tongass National Forest photo)

A five-acre fire destroyed one home in Haines and spread to State Forest land Monday night. The National Forest Service is flying in Tuesday evening to aid the local volunteer fire department.

A fire started at 8.5 mile on the Haines Highway at about six o’clock on Monday evening. The fire consumed one residence and fire fighters are working to protect four others. There are no reported injuries. At last report the five-acre fire moved on to state lands burning uphill and north.

“We have a twenty person forest service crew mobilizing which should be on scene by the end of the day,” said Paul Robbins Jr., the Public Affairs staff officer for the Tongass National Forest. There is a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Forest Service and Alaska State Forests when it comes to fighting fires. So U.S. Forest Service will relieve the Haines Volunteer Fire department this evening.

“Some of the crew is coming from the Tongass, some are coming from the Chugach, so they’re coming in from all over Alaska,” he said.

Robbins says USFS firefighters will continue to focus on protecting residences when they arrive in Haines.

Haines Borough dispatch got the call just before six thirty on Monday and Haines Borough Volunteer Fire Department has been fighting the fire since that evening. Private company Coastal Helicopters is delivering water by bucket to the firefighters. The cause of the fire is unknown at this time. The fire department does not yet have a representative available for comment.

Alaska transitioned into fire season this month, but Alaska Division of Forestry’s Tim Mowry says fires in the Southeast region are rare.

“We don’t usually pick up many fires in Southeast obviously because it’s a rainforest,” he said.

Statewide this year there have been 135 reported wildfires that burned over 33,000 acres. Only six of those were in southeast.

“Thirty-three thousand acres is really nothing in Alaska because we’re so big. Typically we’re gonna see 650-700,000 acres in a typical year,” Mowry said.

There’s an increased risk of fires in Alaska this year especially along main road corridors. Mowry attributes this year’s increased risk to an early spring and abnormally dry or drought conditions in the panhandle.

About 150 miles up the highway from the blaze in Haines, CBC reports a nearly 500 hectare fire burning near Haines Junction in the Yukon.

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