Strategic firing operations continued yesterday along the Sterling Highway from Milepost 68, west toward the Watson Lake campground. Unfavorable conditions with winds out of the north slowed hand-firing efforts during the morning. Helicopters and drones with Plastic Sphere Dispensing (PSD) machines that drop ping-pong like balls with reactive chemicals inside were used to increase the burned area of the firing operation in front of the main fire. Firefighters have completed intentional burning along the highway and the Homer Electric Transmission Line this morning using swing shift crews who worked into the early morning hours. Today crews will complete the remaining mile of firing operations northwest between Watson and Afonasi lakes on the East Fork Moose River, helping to protect the community of Sterling.
Motorists can expect traffic delays to continue today along the Sterling Highway. Flaggers and pilot cars will be moving traffic through a single lane along approximately 10 miles of the fire area as firefighters use the lane nearest the fire. Smoke may affect visibility in the afternoon when winds are expected to switch out of the north. Nighttime inversions also may cause areas of smoke and fog. Temperatures in the upper 80’s and low relative humidities will continue into the weekend.
The northeast section of the fire continues to grow toward a valve site on the ENSTAR gas pipeline and the Trapper Joe public use cabin. Structure protection crews are preparing the sites in the event fire reaches it. Preparations include clearing away burnable vegetation and setting up pumps with hose lays and sprinklers. Currently, the fire is held up at the Chickaloon River, but it is expected to continue moving to the northeast over the coming days.
The last recorded fire in this area occurred in 1947. Wildland fires typically do not completely burn all of the landscape but move in a mosaic pattern, removing thick black spruce forests. The result will be a healthy, diverse forest in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Reduction of flammable fuels will help protect neighboring communities well into the future.
Residents are encouraged to sign up for KPB Alerts, a local notification system that rapidly conveys important information to the community. Text “KPB” to 99411 to receive a link to sign up on a mobile device. More information about fire prevention can be found at Firewise.org, Alaska.gov/fire/firewise or Wildland Fire – Ready Set Go! Program.
An interactive fire map can be found under Current Situational Reports on the Kenai Peninsula Borough emergency blog at www.kpboem.com. Map includes fire perimeter and land ownership overlaid on aerial photos. For Kenai emergency information, please contact the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management call center at 907-262-INFO (4636) between 8am and 8pm.
WEATHER: Warm and dry conditions continue today with winds from the northwest. Maximum temps may reach 87 with relative humidity decreasing as a high pressure system sets up over the fire area.
SAFETY: For current road conditions visit http://511.alaska.gov. The Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) over the fire area includes the Sterling Highway corridor to support suppression efforts and firefighter safety. Pilots can confirm the current TFR restrictions at tfr.faa.gov. Personal drone operations are not permitted on the refuge.
KENAI NATIONAL WILDDLIFE REFUGE INFORMATION: TheSkilak Wildlife Recreation Area is closed to public use, including campgrounds, trails and cabins. Skilak Lake Road, along with Jim’s, Upper and Lower Skilak landings remain open.Contact the Refuge Visitor Center at 907-260-2820 or online at kenai.fws.gov.