Firefighters benefitted from cooler, wetter weather on Saturday where the Swan Lake Fire is burning in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The moderating weather resulted in minimal fire growth, with the latest size estimate of 12,782 acres, an increase of only about 200 acres, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry.
Crews made progress improving the fireline along the southwest edge of the fire near the community of Sterling. Work included enhancing protections around energy infrastructure. Though most of the pipeline, which moves natural gas from the Kenai Peninsula to Anchorage, is buried underground, a Thermoelectric Generator (TEG) sits aboveground east of the fire. Yesterday’s protections for the TEG site included clearing out vegetation and prepping water pumps and a sprinkler system. Crews also completed a new helispot yesterday near the fire to support movement of personnel and supplies, improving efficiency.
The northeast flank of the fire benefitted from the cool day as well. This natural, lightning-caused fire can restart the boreal forest’s succession on a part of the landscape that has not seen fire since 1947. This fire helps reduce the risk of future fires threatening local communities when weather is less favorable by removing fuel now. Burn scars affect new fires for years, slowing their progress and giving firefighters more time to respond. For more information on Alaska’s forest succession and wildland fire on National Wildlife Refuges visit: https://tinyurl.com/y4hpul8x.
Anticipating a change in the weather to warmer and drier, firefighters today will continue building and fortifying line along the south finger of the fire, south of the pipeline corridor. Helicopters will be supporting crews this morning with bucket drops of water as needed. Assessments will be made today on infrastructure north of the fire including a public-use cabin, to determine what protections would be needed if fire activity intensifies over the next week.
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. They aim to reduce future wildland fire hazards and enhance wildlife habitat by allowing for fire’s natural role: creating a diversity of vegetation types and tree age classes.
WEATHER: Meteorologists expect cloudy, wet weather to continue for the next 24 hours. Precipitation will be limited to passing rain showers with only a 10% chance of wetting rain over the fire area today. Fires burning in deep duff require large amounts of rain to change their activity, something that hasn’t been seen this weekend.
SAFETY: Motorists are urged to yield to fire apparatus entering the Sterling Highway and to adhere to traffic signage staged near miles 82 and 92. Observing the fire from a safe location should be practiced instead of stopping along the highway. For current road conditions visit http://511.alaska.gov. Supporting agencies are posting fire and smoke-related information, official updates and helpful links on the virtual joint information center (VJIC) at www.kpboem.com. The Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is still in effect to support suppression efforts and firefighter safety. Pilots and drone operators can confirm the current TFR restrictions at https://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_9_4869.html. Be advised that drone operation is not permitted on the Refuge.
FIRE INFORMATION: Call Division of Forestry Public Information office at 907-260-4262, visit kpboem.com or inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6387