Residents were forced to evacuate Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, which is south of Anchorage, over the weekend after the wind pushed and caused an already large wildfire to explode in size.
As of 4 p.m. Alaska time on Sunday, the fire covered 243 square miles, which is twice the size of the city of Seattle.
“If they say get out, I’m going, and I think they can save the homes here,” resident Jenny Johnson told the Anchorage Daily News.
The fire, dubbed the “Funny River Fire” due to the name of a road from which residents were evacuating, is actually not unusual in size for Alaska, the Associated Press reported. Officials did note that seeing a fire like this early in the season is out of the ordinary.
“You could actually hear it just roaring,” Johnson told the Daily News about the flames.
Take a look at these pictures of the fire:
At the same time, the wildfire raging in Arizona grew significantly over the weekend, but only because of fires were intentionally set by crews to rob the blaze of its natural forest fuels, officials said Saturday.
Crews have mostly completed burnout operations on the key northern flank of the Slide Fire and are preparing to make similar protection efforts on the fire’s western end. The burnout operations conducted Friday night by fire crews contributed to the heavy smoke over Sedona and Flagstaff.
“They are making progress. Having the humidity and cooler temperatures was certainly very helpful. But we are by no means done yet,” Coronado National Forest Service information officer Gerry Perry said.
The size of the human-caused fire had reached 16 square miles by Saturday morning. It had grown nearly 5 square miles since the latest report on its size.
It’s burning around Oak Creek Canyon, a scenic recreation area along the highway between Sedona and Flagstaff that would normally be filed with tourists as Memorial Day approaches. Slide Rock State Park, one of the most-visited tourist spots in Arizona, has been closed.
The goals for fire managers are to protect the 300 structures threatened in Oak Creek Canyon, keep the fire from pushing into the communities of Forest Highlands and Kachina Village to the east, and minimize the potential for flooding.
Watch WGUN-TV’s report about Arizona’s fire:
The Associated Press contributed to this report.