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Fire crews battle blazes throughout southcentral Alaska

Fire crews battled blazes throughout southcentral Alaska .Dozens of residences, seasonal cabins and other buildings have been destroyed on the Kenai Peninsula.

The largest fire covering 50,000 acres (20,000 hectares), whose western flank is 10 miles (16 kilometers) southeast of the community of Clam Gulch, may have slowed during light showers, but not by much, fire information officer Mary Huels said.

"We're glad we got that little sprinkle this morning, but I'm afraid it's not going to last very long," Huels said Saturday from Ninilchik. Still, she said, ""even a little bit of rain helps."

The fire began Tuesday when sparks from a grinder being used to sharpen a shovel fell into dry grass. The area is about 180 miles (290 kilometers) by road southwest of Anchorage.

The blaze, dubbed the Caribou Hills fire, consumed 30 residences and 40 other buildings in the popular recreatonal area, according to the state Division of Forestry. It threatens another 600 residences and cabins, Huel said.

Meanwhile, more crews were arriving from the lower 48 states to bolster the 250 people involved in firefighting efforts.

An evacuation order is still in effect for the area. Officials do not know how many people have left their homes because many of the structures are only used seasonally.

Fire crews said private pilots should not fly over the fire because they are endangering firefighting helicopters, forestry officials said.

Cool, wet weather in the Mat-Su Valley north of Anchorage held fires there at bay, with acreages remaining about the same as Friday, said fire information officer Matt Weaver.

The Su River fire had covered about 9,000 acres (3,600 hectares) near the Parks Highway about five miles (eight kilometers) east of Caswell and the Yentna River fire remained at about 60 acres (24 hectares).

The Su River blaze has destroyed one cabin. Weaver said no other buildings had been touched on Saturday.

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