Warmer and Drier Conditions Return to the East Fork Fire

The recent cool and damp weather conditions moderated fire behavior on the East Fork Fire burning in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Warm and dry weather has returned to the Peninsula and is predicted to continue through the weekend. The change in weather will likely cause an increase in fire activity and smoke production.

The East Fork Fire remains at 1,016 acres with 145 personnel currently assigned. The fire continues to burn in a limited protection area about 4.5 miles north of the Sterling Highway and 3.5 miles east of the nearest residential area.

Fire management’s objectives remain the same on the lightning-caused fire; minimize the impact on values at risk on the south end of the fire and the natural gas pipeline corridor to the southeast, as well as to keep the fire east of the East Fork of the Moose River.

Firehose has been laid and pumps have been placed along the hand cut fire break. Fire crews continue to lay hose and place pumps along the ENSTAR natural gas pipeline easement. Firefighters have completed clearing a 100-foot radius around the pipeline valves and are now clearing some black spruce that’s growing on the north side of the easement.

ENSTAR Natural Gas Pipeline Valves have been cleared of fuels. Photo Credit: Lakota Burwell

A map is being made with all the locations of supplies and features in place for a turnkey operation in case the fire picks back up and the proposed burnout operation is needed to protect the Sterling Highway and community of Sterling. The public is asked to please steer clear of crews working in the area and all firefighting equipment that is in place.

The Tanana Chiefs Crew is being released from the incident today and will begin their travel home. The White Mountain crew from Fairbanks will be released tomorrow. If fire activity remains moderate through the weekend, then two more crews will be released on Monday which would leave Pioneer Peak Hotshots as the only remaining crew in the field and assigned to the fire as of Tuesday morning. Tentative transition back to the local unit as a type 4 organization is expected Tuesday or Wednesday.

An open house will be held on Monday, 6/26, at the Sterling Elementary School from 5-7pm. Stop by to talk with East Fork Fire personnel as well as local officials from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, The Alaska Division of Forestry, The Kenai Peninsula Borough, Office of Emergency Management, Central Emergency Services and Alaska State Troopers.

The temporary flight restriction (TFR) in place over the fire to provide for the safety of fire-related aircraft operations has been modified. Pilots should check with the Federal Aviation Administration before flying in the area. The most up to date TFR is available at http://tfr.faa.gov/tfr2/list.html.

During these wet weather days, residents are encouraged to take steps on their own properties to reduce wildfire risk using tips found on the FireWise website: http://www.firewise.org/wildfire-preparedness/firewise-toolkit.aspx

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 akfireinfo.com, KPBOEM.blogspot.com and inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/5250/.

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