KTNA Studio – Dave Totten, artist

Photo by Deb Wessler

Photo by Dora Miller

KTNA Studio

KTNA On Air Studio, Jan 2013

Photo by Deb Wessler

Photo by James Trump

Winter Black-capped Chickadee

winter chickadee

Photo by Robin Song

Fish Lake morning

Fish Lake morning

photo: Robin Song


Update: Montana Creek and Kashwitna Fires

Incident Command PIO Celeste Prescott says it now looks like there is no fire along the Kashwitna River. A call came in reporting smoke, and aircraft were dispatched. After repeatedly searching the area, Prescott says the aircraft were unable to locate any burning or smoke in the reported area. The reason the fire showed up on the map has to do with Forestry’s procedures once a report is made and an aircraft is dispatched.

Celeste Prescott says the ground crews are still on-scene at the Montana Creek fires. She says the Montana Creek West fire did start smoking again at one point, but the crew was there to keep it suppressed. Both fires are still considered contained, but not out, yet.

Upper Susitna Senior Center shelters area residents, travelers Sunday and Monday

Gretchen and Scott MacDonald

Gretchen and Scott MacDonald

Photos and Story by Katie Writer – KTNA

The Upper Susitna Senior Center on the Parks Highway offers shelter on the North end of the Sockeye Fire. Red Cross’ Gretchen MacDonald, head of Public Affairs of the Upper Su, and Shelter Manager, Scott MacDonald offered a safe haven for those in need during the road closure of the Parks Highway on Sunday, June 13th. A total of 168 people filled the shelter and parking lot form 8:00 pm to 3:00 am.


A majority of the travelers were out and about enjoying the beautiful weather on Sunday. Little did they know that their Sunday drive would turn into an overnighter.


“A lot of people just stayed in their cars, waiting. They said, ‘We don’t need the shelter. We just need to get out of here.’ So, they were very anxious to get on the road as quick as they could. ”


Many of the out-of-state travelers were feeling vulnerable due to the uncertainty of the situation as well as lack of lodging in the Talkeetna area.


Katie Writer: Did you get turned around on the [Parks] Highway?

Mary Perkins: We did. We sat out there about five hours. [Mary’s husband] is a diabetic and also has COPD, so he’s suffering, right now.”


Kristy Grove of Houston, Texas watched a dogsled team be fed in the parking lot of the Senior Center. While her immediate concern was catching her flight out of Anchorage the following day, she was equally concerned about the abnormal weather phenomena she would come home to in Texas.


“There is a storm coming up, and our other son said it can have between six and ten inches of rain, so we have had a lot of rain.”


There were far fewer people at the Shelter on Monday that actually live in the fire zone. While resting her granddaughter, Sophie on her shoulder, Willow resident Betty Patterson spoke about the importance of priorities when dealing with the decision to get out of the fire zone.


“In any devastation like this, materialistic things, homes and whatever, can be replaced, but lives can’t.IMG953365We’re just thankful that we have our family.”


The dog mushing community has also been hit hard by the Sockeye Fire. Iditarod mushers have teamed together for evacuee’s on the South end of the Fire, according to Gretchen MacDonald.


“We’ve had calls from mushers who have space available for fellow mushers, for their dogs. We’ve had offers of food. We don’t need them at this point, because we’re a transient shelter, right now.”


Willow musher Tracey Schaefer decided to play it safe by evacuating to the Senior Center with her 29 sled dogs, a house cat, and 4 house dogs. She said she had almost everything she needed.


“Right now, I’m ok. My trailer needs a little bit of WD-40.”


IMG953381As the Sockeye Fire continues to burn, multiple sources of information are available to Susitna Valley residents and those who may become stranded by the fire.


The phone number for the Red Cross volunteers at the Upper Susitna Senior Center is 907-355-3422


The Mat-Su Borough’s Evacuation Info line is 907/861-8326


The Statewide Fire Information hotline is: 907/892-9413

Those wishing to donate to the Red Cross shelters call 907-357-6060.


Those numbers and more information are available at ktna.org and on the KTNA Facebook page.



Wednesday morning Susitna Valley fire update

According to the Sockeye Fire incident command post, the Sockeye Fire saw little growth, yesterday. The size of the fire in the Willow area is now estimated at 7,555 acres, which is 43 acres more than yesterday’s estimate.


Last night, two lightning-caused fires in the Goose Creek area prompted a response by two air tankers, a helicopter, local ground crews, and a hotshot crew that was brought in from the Sockeye Fire. The crews worked overnight, and by the morning the fires, which are officially named “Montana Creek East” and “Montana Creek West” are considered contained. At this time, KTNA does not have confirmation that the fires are completely out.



Late this morning, KTNA learned of a new ignition between the North Fork of the Kashwitna River and

Sheep Creek at the base of the Talkeetna Mountains. The cause is listed as human on the official fire map, and the size is listed at one acre as of about 10:00 am. KTNA is continuing to seek further information on the Kashwitna fire.


Tonight, a community meeting will be held at the Houston Middle School, which is serving as a shelter for those evacuated from the Sockeye Fire area. That meeting will be at 7:00 p.m.


KTNA will continue to provide updates as information becomes available. You can listen at 88.9 FM or on ktna.org. Updates are also being posted to the KTNA Facebook page and on Twitter @KTNA.

Sockeye and Montana Creek fire updates

By Anne Hillman – APRN, Phillip Manning – KTNA

Montana Creek Fires:

Celeste Prescott, Public Information Officer at the command center, says that they are “under control.” Note that does not mean they are “out.” It means that the crews on the ground feel like they are not likely to flare up at this time.

Sockeye Fire:

The Sockeye Fire did not grow on Tuesday, and firefighters are reporting
“really good progress” on containing the northern portion. Low winds kept
the size steady, but people are still not allowed back to their homes.

“Wind is like the wheels of the fire,” explained Alaska Incident Management
Team Information Officer Sarah Saarloos. “You have to have wind to have
fire growth.”

The fire is pretty static with no aggressive runs or crowning and no
substantial acreage growth. They hope to have containment within a day or
so. It is currently zero percent contained.

About 300 firefighters are on the ground trying to stop the Sockeye Fire,
and they have air resources. Saarloos said the incident management should
have all of the resources they need by Thursday, unless crews are diverted
to fight other fires in the state.

Saarloos said tonight’s storms did not bring much rain, but they brought
lightning strikes to the area north of the Sockeye Fire. Firefighters
aggressively attacked them to prevent their growth.

The evacuation order remains in place because of high levels of heat in the
interior of the fire. They are trying to secure areas to allow people back
in. The Parks Highway is open to traffic, though vehicles must be led
through the area with a pilot car. There is not much smoke in the area at
this time.

Incident responders are concerned about the long-term weather forecast – no
rain in sight for the next five to ten days.

Burglary reported inside Sockeye Fire evacuation zone

The Alaska State Troopers are asking anyone with information about a burglary inside the Sockeye Fire evacuation zone to contact the Trooper dispatch.


According to the Troopers, a report was received of a burglary shortly after 5:30 pm on Monday. Troopers responded to the residence off of West Sunnyslope Way. Troopers say that the burglary appears to have taken place some time around 2:00 am on Monday. The investigation is ongoing.

Aircraft, Hotshot Crew Dispatched to Fight Lightning Fires Near Goose Creek

8:30 – Tuesday, June 16th, 2015


On Tuesday evening, lightning strikes started two fires in the area of Goose Creek near Mile 95 of the Parks Highway. Incident Command spokesperson Celeste Prescott says that the Division of Forestry dispatched two tankers and a helicopter to combat the fires. She says a total of at least nine new starts due to lightning had been reported by 8:00 pm on Tuesday.


As of 8:00 pm, Prescott says the aircraft reported that they were returning from the area, which she says could indicate that the fires have been significantly slowed.


Prescott says a hotshot crew on loan from the Sockeye Fire efforts is on the way to the Montana Creek fires to attempt to contain and secure the area.

Classics for Kids–The Prince and the Pauper #4

Cari Sayre continues the historical fiction book by Mark Twain, about two boys living in England in the 1500’s.

Places to get information on the Sockeye Fire

Sockeye Fire Update 6-24: The Sockeye Fire is 92 percent contained. Firefighters continue to patrol fire lines and work the remaining portions of the uncontained perimeter along scattered sections of the Susitna River, Willow Creek and Little Willow Creek.

More than 200 community members attended an open house last night at the Willow Community Center to learn about some of the resources available to them following the fire. Among the participating organizations were the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Red Cross, Alaska Department of Homeland Security, Alaska Division of Insurance, Alaska Division of Forestry, and the Willow Citizen Emergency Response Team.

More than 400 personnel are still working the fire. Crews will continue to be released and become available to work other fires in Alaska. Area residents and travelers on the Parks Highway are asked to be alert and drive carefully because of continued firefighting activity.

Residents should expect to continue seeing minor fire activity within the burn perimeter. Scattered smokes and small flames, such as a smoldering log, should not be reported. Report anything that involves a structure or is an imminent threat to life or property. Report potential issues between 6 p.m. and 7 a.m. to Sockeye Fire security, (928) 864-9435.


Here are multiple other sources for Susitna Valley residents to get information:

To report a fire: 911 or the Division of Forestry at 1-800-237-3633

Red Cross donation coordination 357-6060.

Mat-Su Borough for information on evacuation zones: 907-861-8326

Sockeye Fire Incident Command Post: 892-9413.



Official Sockeye Fire Incident Command Page

Mat-Su Borough

Red Cross – Alaska


Incident Command Website

Air Quality Advisories

Interview with KTNA’s Katie Writer at the Upper Susitna Senior Center

Attached is the audio of Phillip Manning’s live interview with Katie Writer at the Upper Susitna Senior Center evacuation shelter.  We will continue to provide updates as they become available.