Alaska Wildfire Burning Area Bigger Than Colorado Springs

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A wildfire in Alaska's Kenai Peninsula has grown to cover more than 248 square miles--or the size of Chicago--but was only 20 percent contained as of Sunday morning, fire officials said.

The almost ironically named Funny River Fire--the fire is named for the area is started in--threatens about 150 cabins, vacation homes and year-round residences in three communities.

Anchorage CBS station KTVA reports that several areas have either been evacuated or placed under an evacuation advisory. Residents are bracing themselves as they keep a close eye on the fire.

“I’m a little on edge, but I’m comfortable … with being home now,” Andie Bock told KTVA. “I still know at any moment it can turn, but I’m prepared to just put the kids in the car and go — there is no grabbing anything anymore.”

The Funny River Fire burning in the 1.9-million-acre Kenai National Wildlife Refuge grew by about 42 square miles on Saturday.

The size of the fire is not unusual for Alaska but the state does not usually see such large fires this early in the season, said Michelle Weston, spokeswoman with the Alaska Interagency Management Team, which includes the state Division of Forestry and federal and local officials.

For size comparison, as of Monday morning, the Funny River Fire was larger than Seattle (143 square miles), San Francisco (232 square miles) or Colorado Springs (186 square miles) and about half the size of the city of Los Angeles (503 square miles).

About 650 firefighters are assigned to the fire, which is the most active of several large wildfires burning in Alaska.

Wildfires in Alaska's remote areas are not unusual during the summer months, with an average of a million acres burned each fire season, Weston said.

The state is experiencing unusually dry conditions because of unseasonably warm spring temperatures. High wind is also a challenge for the crews fighting the Funny River Fire.

Gov. Sean Parnell was scheduled to visit the fire command post on Sunday.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1941 as the Kenai National Moose Range and was aimed at moose protection. Wildlife viewing, fishing, camping and hiking attract visitors from around the world.

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