Wildfire activity up this year in Alaska

ANCHORAGE — Fueled by hot, bone-dry weather, wildfires have taken off across the state this week, smothering much of it in a haze of smoke as they consume thousands of acres of forest.

The thickening cloud of smoke in Anchorage on Wednesday prompted city officials to declare a health advisory late in the afternoon for people with health sensitivities.

"There's several fires sort of ringing Southcentral, and actually, quite a bit of that smoke is crossing the Alaska Range and heading down south," state Division of Forestry spokesman Matt Weaver said.

By far the largest and potentially most dangerous fire is the Minto Flats South fire burning untamed about 13 miles northwest of Nenana. By Wednesday it had consumed more than 125,000 acres and was threatening nearly 70 structures and outbuildings as well as a drilling rig, according to the forestry division.

More than 190 firefighters, including some from the Lower 48, were on the defensive against that lightning-sparked blaze Wednesday, most of their effort focusing on protecting the properties, Weaver said.

Nine new fires broke out Tuesday, bringing to 70 the number of active fires reported across the state. Seven of them were staffed with firefighters, according to the forestry division.

The Alaska Interagency Coordination Center reported 363 fires have burned 629,730 acres so far this year. At this time last year, 267 fires had burned 24,912 acres.

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