A reconnaissance flight Tuesday afternoon of the Swan Lake Fire showed an estimated overall two day increase of just under 3,000 acres, with the vast majority of growth to the north and northeast. The fire is now estimated at 15,648 acres and there are 169 personnel assigned to the fire, according to the Alaska Division of Forestry.
Hand crews supported by aerial resources have dedicated all efforts to limit the amount of fire growth towards Sterling and the Sterling Highway corridor. Tuesday evening, the Gannett Glacier Type 2 Initial Attack Crew took advantage of a favorable weather window in the evening that allowed firing operations to proceed on the eastern flank. The goal of these operations is to remove fuel sources before the fire approaches, and to begin mop up as soon as possible to create a strong control line. With the need for the firing skills and expertise of hotshot crews, five crews from the Lower 48 were ordered Tuesday and will begin arriving later today to bolster the efforts of the four Alaskan crews currently engaged in suppression efforts.
Fire activity is anticipated today on the eastern flank of the fire where continuous black spruce stands are very receptive to fire spread. The short- and long-term goal is to prevent the fire from getting established east of Mystery Creek Road. Aerial supervisors will assess the fire behavior and will direct helicopter bucket work and air tankers as needed to keep this edge in check. Fire crews will continue to look for opportunities to utilize burnout operations and will begin the process of mopping up control lines.
Firefighters and fire prevention specialists are visiting Sterling community neighborhoods to assess the readiness of homeowners. There is currently no immediate threat to Sterling but now is the time to be prepared. More information can be found at Firewise.org, Alaska.gov/fire/firewise or Wildland Fire – Ready Set Go!
The Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team is hosting a community meeting Friday, June 21, at the Sterling Community Center at 6 p.m. Incident command staff will be on hand to provide fire information and will share the strategies and tactics being used to protect critical infrastructure throughout the community. All interested residents are welcome to attend and ask questions about this incident and efforts being made to protect the community and critical infrastructure.
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. The focus of all suppression efforts is to protect all of the values at risk including the community of Sterling and the highway corridor while reducing future wildland fire hazards and enhancing wildlife habitat.
WEATHER: Winds are predicted to be lighter today with a warming and drying trend continuing this week.
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 at www.kpboem.com. The Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) is still in effect to support suppression efforts and firefighter safety. Pilots can confirm the current TFR restrictions at tfr.faa.gov. Be advised that drone operation is not permitted on the refuge.
KENAI NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE INFORMATION: Contact the Refuge Visitor Center at 907-260-2820 or online at kenai.fws.gov.