Faced with 95 active wildfires and lightning bolts by the hundreds, Alaska wildfire officials Tuesday called fire activity for the month of May "unprecedented" and warned that the risk of more wildfires is high and that their resistance to control is nearing extreme.
Thirteen of the fires were staffed with 1,467, firefighters, including some 900 people from the Lower 48, while others were burning unchecked in what has to date been an uncommonly hot and dry Alaska spring.
The fire activity Tuesday prompted the National Interagency Coordination Center to elevate Alaska to Preparedness Level IV, topping every other region in the country.
"We are now the national priority, which is good because that helps us in terms of getting resources, both people and equipment," said Pete Buist, a spokesman for the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center.
The National Weather Service was predicting some respite in much of the state -- cooler temperatures and some precipitation -- but at the expense of accompanying thunderstorms.
More than 2,000 lightning bolts snapped down on Alaska on Monday, with more lightning expected through the week, according to the interagency fire center.
Near Anchorage, a wildfire burning about two miles south of Eklutna Lake, fueled by whipping winds Monday, exploded from 300 acres 1,300, fire officials said Tuesday.
Cooler temperatures and more cloud cover helped firefighters hold a critical defensive line constructed during the night. But firefighters were bracing for strong afternoon winds that would put them to the test.
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