July 7, 2021 2:54 pm
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A wildfire was about 100 yards (91 meters) from a vacation destination in interior Alaska on Tuesday morning, but fire officials expressed confidence Chena Hot Springs Resort would be spared.
“They’re pretty confident that they’re going to be able to defend the resort, based on the measures that we’ve set up and the personnel we have on scene,” said Tim Mowry, a spokesperson for the Alaska Division of Forestry.
“We’re just reacting to what the fire’s doing,” he said.
About 150 firefighters were working to protect the resort, homes and recreational cabins in the area about 60 miles (97 kilometers) northeast of Fairbanks. More firefighters were expected to arrive later Tuesday.
Water was being sprayed on buildings at the resort with pumps, hoses and sprinklers, the division said in a statement. Firefighters also conducted a back burn near a trail that leads to two aurora viewing yurts near the resort in hopes it would help stop the fire’s advance toward the main buildings.
Hoses and sprinklers also were set up at nearby homes and cabins.
The Fairbanks North Star Borough on Monday issued a voluntary evacuation order. Alaska State Troopers conducted a survey of homeowners and cabin users in the area and found that about 30 people decided not to evacuate.
Resort owner Bernie Karl also declined to evacuate, but it was unclear how many guests or other resort employees remained onsite, Mowry said.
Karl last week told The Associated Press that after fire threatened the resort in 2004, he put metal roofs on all his buildings, added fire lanes around the resort and bought fire protection equipment, including two firetrucks.
The lightning-sparked wildfire was first reported June 18, burning about 5 miles (8 kilometers) south of the resort.
Since then, it has grown to nearly 31 square miles (80 square kilometers). Last Friday, winds pushed the fire across a ridge and began a slow descent on the other side toward the resort.
As the fire creeped toward the resort on Monday, people lounging in the resort’s rock pool “cheered as trees torched as they were watching it come down,” Mowry said.