As expected, the cloudy day yesterday allowed firefighters on the 12,782-acre Swan Lake Fire to make good progress. The southwestern firelines nearest the community of Sterling were further strengthened and widened as crews strategically tied work with the existing pipeline right-of-way clearing. The local Yukon Fire crew has joined the three other crews in this critical area of the fire. Fire managers flew a reconnaissance flight late yesterday to confirm the benefit of work that has been done and to evaluate actions needed for upcoming operational periods. On the ground, firefighters reported slow-moving fire behavior, indicating that it is burning deep within the duff layer. The duff layer is a thick layer of moss, twigs, leaves and spruce needles that blankets the forest floor; the duff thickness may vary 4-6 inches. This is an important firefighter observation, indicating the level of work that must be done to put the fire out on the southwest perimeter.
Crews will work together today on their continued mission of protecting the community of Sterling by mopping up, securing and monitoring fireline on the southwestern edge of the fire. Fire operations, flying over the public use cabin north of the fire made the decision that this building does not require point protection at this time. This cabin protection and that of the TEG site can be accomplished quickly thanks to past crew work, proactive preparations and the distance from the active fireline.
Today, management of this fire will transition to an incoming Type 2 Alaska incident management team. This move to a Type 2 team increases the capacity of each division of staffing. More personnel assigned to this fire provides for a comprehensive strategic plan going forward and adds capacity in anticipation of the shift in weather back to drier days. Fire personnel will be transitioning the Incident Command from the Division of Forestry Kenai-Kodiak Unit in Soldotna to Sterling Elementary School this morning. Expect to see more fire personnel on the Sterling Highway while they complete this move and more presence in Sterling in future.
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: Afternoon wind gusts will test the firelines today. Isolated showers will not result in wetting rain.
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 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/