Hundreds of rural Alaskans remained under evacuation orders Monday after a wildfire south of Anchorage burned a swath of land bigger than Chicago.
The so-called Funny River Fire has yet to hurt anybody or destroy any buildings on the Kenai Peninsula since it started May 19, despite threatening settlements and subdivisions on the outskirts of Soldotna, pop. 4,359, officials said.
Although the blaze has scorched an impressive 248 square miles -- the city of Chicago is 227 square miles -- the huge conflagration is not all that unusual for lightly populated Alaska, one firefighting official said.
"Usually we don’t see these big behemoth-type fires so close to residential areas," said Bernie Pineda, a spokesman for the firefighting response. "Usually we’ll find [big fires] like this in a more vast, central part of Alaska [where] there really isn’t anything out there that’s going to cause consternation and potential harm with the public."
Pineda added, "This one is obviously a little bit different ... because of the size, because it’s encroaching communities to the west and the north.”
The fire is 30% contained. Roughly 300 people have been evacuated and almost 600 firefighting personnel are battling the blaze, Pineda said.
The fire has been deemed human-caused, but Pineda said he didn't know the circumstances.
Cooler weather and rain early Tuesday were expected to slow the fire's advance.