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Alaska wildfire spreads, evacuations ordered

"We've got crews out there beating these things to death as we pick them up," Bernie Pineda, spokesperson for the interagency fire command team, told local news reporters.
By Brooks Hays   |   May 26, 2014 at 6:17 PM
| License Photo

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, May 26 (UPI) -- The Funny River Fire -- as it's been dubbed -- is no laughing matter. Days of spreading flames have left more than 193 square miles burned in Alaska's Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

With high winds making the flames extremely hard to predict, officials decided to evacuate more than 1,000 structures on Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage.

Firefighters continue to battle, but the fire is raging through wilderness that is difficult to access. The blaze is currently only 20 percent contained.

Officials weren't clear on exactly how many people were evacuated. As of Sunday, state troopers were going door to door, making sure people got out. The evacuated areas are populated mainly by second homes and retirees.

No injuries have been reported.

Alaska is no stranger to forest fires -- they're natural. But officials say they rarely grow this large this early in the season. The high winds and extremely dry conditions are ideal for a fire to spread.

Firefighters have been forced to fight the fire mostly by air -- via helicopters and crop planes -- but ground personnel have been busy fighting spot fires started by windblown embers.

"We've got crews out there beating these things to death as we pick them up," Bernie Pineda, spokesperson for the interagency fire command team, told local news reporters.

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