Cooler weather slows fire near Chena Hot Springs Resort outside of Fairbanks

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Published: Jul. 3, 2021 at 4:41 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - A wildfire burning near Chena Hot Springs Resort around 50 miles outside of Fairbanks has died down due to cooler weather and a light rain. The Munson Creek Fire is around one mile away from the resort and one to two miles away from Chena Hot Springs Road near the Angel Rocks trailhead.

There are over 100 firefighters working to protect structures at the resort and nearby cabins. According to the fire service, they have finished installing hose and sprinklers around the resort and are now working on cabins and homes from mile-45 to the end of the road.

Fire behavior on Friday was described as “two notches above extreme” by firefighters as high winds and hot weather drove the fire towards to resort.

Firefighters had been on a ridge near the resort attempting to keep the fire from crossing the ridge but were forced to fall back as conditions were two dangerous to remain. They have since been working on structure protection.

The area is currently under a level-2 “Set” evacuation notice, meaning that residents should have their valuables packed and ready to leave at a moments notice.

Bernie Karl, the president of the Chena Hot Springs resort said that he is confident the resort will be fine. He said that between the firefighters and his staff and equipment, he is sure they will be able to protect the property.

“They have got a couple of backup lines that they have established, where they will fight the fire,” Karl said. “Between them and us we’ll save the resort. We have two fire trucks here filled full of water that we are changing the atmosphere in the place by putting water, watering the roads and watering things.”

He also said this isn’t the first fire that has threatened the resort and that he has no plans to evacuate the area even if the fire advances.

“We have zero insurance, so you are talking to the insurance company right here,” Karl said in explaining his reason for not wanting to leave. “We work diligently to save the place. In the 2004 fire they tried to make us evacuate, we didn’t leave and I think this is the safest place in town to be.”

He said they have water on both sides of the resort and lots of trees cut out around the resort that make it very defensible.

“Is there fire going to come here? Yeah, it’s here now. Is the fire going to devastate the resort? No, no it’s not gonna, because we are prepared for it.” Karl said.

At the resort guests were still milling around and soaking in the springs. Karl said he is telling people to, “Enjoy the smoke and take a soak.”

The fire has advanced to two yurts that the resort owns. They do have sprinklers around them but due to smoke the condition of the yurts is unknown at this time. Eight smokejumpers were deployed to try and protect a couple cabins that are threatened by the fire.

Chena Hot Springs Road remains open, but smoke is causing decreased visibility.

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