Swan Lake Fire June 24th Update: Winds Push Fire Towards Sterling Highway

Scoopers on Skilak Lake June 23 Photo credit: Rebecca Stimmel

 Firefighting efforts intensified yesterday as the fire was steadily pushed by a north-northwest wind to the south and east. Despite aggressive air support, the fire moved south in the Mystery Creek Road area by mid-afternoon and in some cases crossed established containment lines. The fire is estimated to be two miles from the Sterling Highway. Firefighters were moved to safe areas as smoke obscured the location of the flaming front. Fire crews are implementing plans to protect these corridors and alternative control lines are being evaluated and improved. On the southwestern perimeter of the fire, crews strengthened existing containment lines on the southern edges of the fire to prevent spread toward the community of Sterling. These control lines continue to halt fire spread to the west. 

Crews will continue preparing for burnout operations today, focusing efforts north of the Homer Electric transmission line, which is located several hundred feet north of the Sterling Highway corridor. Fire crews are monitoring fire behavior and weather forecasts to minimize the disruption of traffic from smoke impacts along the Sterling Highway. Aerial resources and ground support will support efforts to secure the fire’s edge. Although the Kenai Mountains provide a natural barrier to the east, crews are working to limit the impacts to the Sterling Highway. Black spruce forests in this area have not burned in since 1947. 

June 24th Swan Lake Fire Information Map.
June 24th Swan Lake Fire Information Map.

Hot and dry weather with shifting and variable winds are expected for the next several days. Motorists are advised to use caution on the highway as smoky conditions reduce visibility. Please drive carefully, use headlights, and give the right-of-way to any fire traffic in the area. This is a dynamic situation that can change rapidly. Allow extra time to reach your destination and all highway travelers are encouraged to be prepared for delays. 

The Kenai Wildlife Refuge closed recreation areas to allow for public safety and efficient fire operation along the Sterling Highway as we enter a week of hot and dry conditions.

Residents are encouraged to sign up for KPB Alerts which is a Kenai Peninsula Borough notification system whenever information needs to be rapidly conveyed to the community. Residents can text “KPB” to 99411 to receive a link to sign up on your mobile device. The Borough also has fire prevention programs in place for community members. More information can be found at Firewise.org, Alaska.gov/fire/firewise or Wildland Fire – Ready Set Go! Program. 

An interactive fire map, made by the Kenai Peninsula Borough and available for residents, can be found under Current Situational Reports on the KPB emergency blog at www.kpboem.com. Those accessing the map will find the fire perimeter as well as the land ownership parcels in the Sterling area. This makes it possible to see the distance between the fire and residential areas. For Kenai Borough emergency information, please contact the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management call center at 907-262-INFO (4636) between 8am and 8pm 

Black spruce stands in the Kenai Wildlife Refuge haven't burned since 1947. Photo credit: Casey Lasota/Alaska IMT
Black spruce stands in the Kenai Wildlife Refuge haven’t burned since 1947. Photo credit: Casey Lasota/Alaska IMT

WEATHER: Hot and dry conditions will continue with lower relative humidity and a shift in winds from the southwest. An air quality advisory continues through today. 

 SAFETY: Motorists are urged to be cautious on the highway and yield to fire apparatus and adhere to traffic signage. 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) over the fire area has expanded to include the Sterling Highway corridor to support suppression efforts and firefighter safety. Pilots can confirm the current TFR restrictions at tfr.faa.gov. Be advised that personal drone operations are not permitted on the refuge.

KENAI REFUGE INFORMATION:  Contact the Refuge Visitor Center at 907-260-2820 or online at kenai.fws.gov

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