East Fork Fire Transitions to a Type 4 Incident Commander

This will be the final update for the East Fork Fire unless significant activity occurs.

Transition to a Type 4 Incident Commander took place this morning at 7am. The last of the smokejumpers and overhead are being shuttled out of the field today. The Pioneer Peak Hotshots will remain in the field to monitor the fire and finalize improvements to the ENSTAR natural gas pipeline corridor.

A photo of Smokejumpers on the first day as they pack up their parachutes and receive supplies via paracargo. Photo Credit: Robert Yeager

The lightning-caused 1,016-acre fire continues to burn in a limited protection area of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. As of this morning there were 49 personnel assigned to the fire but nearly half of them will be demobilizing and traveling home today.

Cloud cover and light rains have moved into the area and are expected to continue to moderate the fire activity. Although parts of the Kenai Peninsula are receiving significant amounts of rain, the fire area is in a rain shadow, therefore is not expected to receive much rain over the next few days. Fires burning in deep duff and tundra require significant amounts of rain to put them completely out. Therefore, fire activity will likely increase once again when warmer and drier weather returns to the area.

The temporary flight restriction (TFR) that was in place over the fire has been canceled. There are still aircraft working in the area throughout today and flights to monitor the fire and provide supplies to the crew in the field will continue daily. Pilots are asked to remain vigilant while flying near the fire.

Smokey talking to kids about being FireWise at the Open House in Sterling. Photo Credit: Celeste Prescott

Over 10 miles of hose, and pumps to run them all, are in place along the existing fire breaks. The ENSTAR natural gas pipeline corridor and the newly built hand line, running from the southwest corner of the fire’s current perimeter for 2.5 miles to the south where it ties into the pipeline, are prepped to use as fire breaks. A map marking the locations of all the pumps and equipment in the field was created for the turnkey operation. If fire activity increases, then the proposed burnout operation may need to be conducted to protect the Sterling Highway and the 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.

Thank you to the public and the agencies that attended and participated in the Community Open House in Sterling last night. It is always great to have one-on-one time with the public and cooperating agencies.

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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