Swan Lake Fire doubles in size to almost 7,000 acres

A photo of fire activity on the Swan Lake Fire (#181) taken Wednesday evening, June 12, 2019. Photo by Kale Casey/Alaska Division of Forestry

The lightning-caused Swan Lake Fire has roughly doubled in size to an estimated 6,951 acres and continues to burn in a Limited protection area of the Kenai National Wildfire Refuge. The fire has burned west into the 2017 East Fork Fire scar and is currently located 2.7 miles north of the Sterling Highway and 5.5 miles northeast of the community of Sterling. The winds have been primarily from the south pushing the fire further into the refuge and away from the highway and populated areas. With the early morning cloud cover yesterday, the fire behavior was noted as moderate and continues to burn both east and west in pockets of black spruce, resulting in the continued acreage growth.

An aerial observation flight yesterday evening noted that the fire is burning in a mosaic pattern that will enhance wildlife habitats while reducing the decades long buildup of hazardous fuels. A robust series of natural and man-made barriers including the 2017 burn scar, decades of mechanical fuel treatments and the extensive wetlands reduce the potential for fire spread towards critical infrastructure and the community of Sterling. Two Alaska Division of Forestry 20-person hand crews are arriving today to bolster local resources and will begin work to secure the southwest corner of the fire.

A Type 3 incident management organization is currently located at the Alaska Division of Forestry Kenai/Kodiak office.

WEATHER: Calm weather continues at the fire and surrounding areas. Gusty winds from the southeast are expected to begin Friday afternoon with speeds of 10 to 18mph. Isolated thunder showers are possible over the fire area.

SAFETY: Smoke from the fire is visible from the Sterling Highway between mileposts 65 and 75. Motorists are advised to slow down, turn headlights on and use caution driving through the fire area. For current road conditions visit the Sterling Highway Rehabilitation Skilak Lake to Seterline Road construction website. A virtual joint information center (VJIC) has been set up online at www.kpboem.com for public information. Collaborating agencies are posting updates on safety, smoke impacts and fire-related information.

A perimeter map of the 6,951-acre Swan Lake Fire (#181) as of Wednesday evening, June 12, 2019. For a downloadable PDF version of the map go to Swan Lake Fire map PDF June 13.

OBJECTIVE: The fire is burning in a limited protection area within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Fire managers with the Alaska Division of Forestry are working collaboratively with refuge personnel to manage the fire to reduce future wildland fire hazards and enhance wildlife habitat by allowing for fire’s natural role to create a diversity of vegetation types and tree age classes. The team is monitoring the fire’s growth and is focused on the protection of the community of Sterling while also mitigating smoke and fire impacts to the Sterling Highway. Alternate driving routes have been identified should the smoke from the fire impact this critical travel corridor.

KENAI NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE INFORMATION: Questions or requests should be directed to the Refuge by calling 907-262-7021 or visiting http://www.fws.gov/refuge/kenai/visit/contact_us.html. Contact the Refuge Visitor Center by calling 907-260-2820 or by clicking http://www.kenai.fws.gov.

About Alaska Division of Forestry

Alaska Division of Forestry website: http://forestry.alaska.gov/ Mission: The Alaska Division of Forestry proudly serves Alaskans through forest management and wildland fire protection. The Wildland Fire and Aviation Program provides safe, cost-effective and efficient fire protection services and related fire and aviation management activities to protect human life and values on State, private and municipal lands. The wildland fire program cooperates with other wildland fire agencies on a statewide, interagency basis.

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