East Fork Fire Implements New Fire Management Strategy

The East Fork Fire burning in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is now estimated at 1,410 acres. Weather permitting, a flight to get more accurate mapping and acreage is planned today. The fire remains approximately 4.5 miles north of the Sterling Highway and 3.5 miles east of the nearest residential area.

East Fork Fire Community Meeting in Sterling on 6/19

Fire officials give a fire overview and explain the new strategy being implemented. Photo Credit: Brenda Ahlberg

A new fire management strategy was unveiled during a public meeting held in the community of Sterling on Monday evening. The new strategy calls for a large burnout operation to clean up a continuous stand of black spruce that poses a constant threat to the nearest community. It will also improve moose habitat.

The new strategy involves firefighters building a fire break from the southwest perimeter of the fire south to the Enstar natural gas pipeline. The pipeline is underground in that area and the release valves are fireproof. Where the pipeline is buried there is a 30-foot-wide clearing that will be used as a fire break and anchor point. Weather permitting, fire personnel will burn out from the fire breaks to the north/northwest, cleaning out all possible fuels between the existing fire perimeter and the fire breaks. The fire will be left to continue to burn to the northeast for as long as Mother Nature allows. Fire officials will continue to monitor the fire closely. If the weather does not cooperate and allow for a good, clean burn,  the fire breaks will already be in place to burn at a later date.

The current and proposed burns lie within a limited protection area of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The limited area is near a full protection area with many residences. The Alaska Division of Forestry is assisting with firefighting efforts and coordinating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage the fire for ecological benefits in the refuge.

The new management strategy was well received at Monday’s public meeting in Sterling, which was attended by about 85 local residents. A huge thanks to the community members that attended and offered their support and appreciation. We would also like to thank all the cooperating agencies and entities that continue to offer their support and assistance as we find the best way to manage the fire and work to keep both communities and firefighters safe.

The current and proposed burns lie within a limited protection area of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The limited area is near a full protection area that includes many residents. The Alaska Division of Forestry is assisting with firefighting efforts and coordinating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage the fire for ecological benefits in the refuge.

There are 126 firefighters currently assigned to the fire. In addition to the ground personnel, 2 large, water-scooping CL-415 aircraft located at the Kenai Airport are assigned to the fire. There are additional tankers available in state, if needed. Three helicopters continue to assist with bucket drops as well as personnel shuttles and sling loads of supplies.

East Fork Fire Public Meeting, 6/19

Fire officials give a fire overview and explain the new strategy being implemented. Photo Credit: Brenda Ahlberg

The public is asked to please steer clear of crews working in the area and be aware of the potential for aircraft using Skilak Lake to scoop water.

A temporary flight restriction (TFR) has been put in place over the fire and pilots should check with the Federal Aviation Administration before flying in the area. More information on the TFR is available at http://tfr.faa.gov/tfr2/list.html.

For more information, contact Alaska Division of Forestry public information officer Celeste Prescott at 907-244-9376. Information about the fire is also being posted on KPBOEM.blogspot.com and inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5250/.

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