The last of a group of travelers that included several with recreation vehicles stranded by wildfires for two days in the tiny mining community of Chicken, Alaska, were safely escorted out of the area over the weekend.
Last Thursday, three fires in the area prompted officials to close a 90-mile stretch of Taylor Highway on both sides of Chicken, a community of 21 people. The closure stranded about 200 residents, travelers and seasonal miners.
Fueled by hot, dry conditions all week, the Chicken fire, with its north flank about a mile south of the community, had grown to an estimated 37,000 acres and merged with the 8,800-acre Wall Street fire, about eight miles east of Chicken. Monday, firefighters were still battling several fires in the region.
Despite the fires, authorities said the Taylor Highway would be open from midnight to 8 a.m. every night, if conditions allow.
Evacuation in Chicken began Friday as several dozen vehicles were escorted on the highway overnight, most arriving in Tok, about 70 miles southwest, by 8 a.m. Saturday. An earlier convoy of 70 vehicles left Chicken early Friday while the remaining travelers were safely evacuated on Saturday.
Fifty-four fires burned across Alaska on Saturday. So far this year, 312 fires statewide have burned at least 430,013 acres in the state, fire officials said.