Remember What Happened To Wasilla In 1996 In The Miller's Reach Fire

In 1996, The Miller's Reach Fire Grew From A Few Fireworks To Burning Down 150 Homes In Just Four Days  A fixed-wing aircraft drops wate...

In 1996, The Miller's Reach Fire Grew From A Few Fireworks To Burning Down 150 Homes In Just Four Days 

A fixed-wing aircraft drops water on the Clear Fire during Wednesday afternoon, 7/6/22. Photo credit: Eric Kiehn, Task Force Leader with Northwest Team 10

 From Nothing To 40,000 Acres 

Yesterday, July 6th, 2022,  when the Clear Fire Task Force issued an  urgent update to subdivisions along the Kobe Road near Anderson: "๐“๐€๐Š๐„ ๐˜๐Ž๐”๐‘ ๐…๐€๐Œ๐ˆ๐‹๐˜ ๐€๐๐ƒ ๐๐„๐“๐’ ๐€๐๐ƒ ๐‹๐„๐€๐•๐„ ๐๐Ž๐–."

This prompted some to remember the Miller's Reach Fire in Big Lake, just north of Wasilla, in 1996. This fire showed just how fast blazes can grow in Alaska, and how dangerous they can be. 

The Big Lake Fire, probably caused by out-of-control firecrackers, rampaged across the wilderness. By June 6th, only 4 days after the fire began, 40,000 acres had been engulfed, and at least 150 cabins, businesses and homes destroyed. Almost a third of the nation’s top firefighters -- 1,900 firefighters -- had gone to Big Lake. The fire went on to destroy 344 buildings. Fire crews and volunteers from the Copper Valley rushed to help. Two State Forestry engines and four state staff went from the valley to the Big Lake settlement, which consisted of homes scattered along side roads into the woods near the lake. Seven local fire engines from the various Copper Valley volunteer fire departments, along with seven local volunteers, also went. 

The fire also came at a bad time for the Copper Valley. On June 5th, the old Chitina Bureau of Indian Affairs schoolhouse in Chitina Village caught fire. A Chitina house burned down, and then some old cars caught fire, and the blaze began to race up a nearby mountain. Jeff Doty, the Chitina village administrator, reported that DNR was dumping buckets of water on the hillside. Helicopters were brought in. Fortunately, the fire at the historic little town was stopped in a few days and forestry personnel were encouraging locals throughout the valley to cut brush back from around their homes. 


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