Crews Work to Strengthen Containment Along South Edge of Swan Lake Fire

Post burn operation conditions along the Sterling Highway.
Photo courtesy: Chris Moore, Alaska Division of Forestry

Crews worked along natural barriers Thursday to complete the burnout operation along the Sterling Highway and the East Fork Moose River. Firefighters are working along the Sterling Highway achieving a 20-25 feet wide cold line perimeter. Once this is completed and the line strengthened in coming days, it will protect Sterling and the highway corridor. Contingency crews are also improving the Sterling Fuel Break.

A Wildland Fire Module, which specializes in protecting values at risk and monitoring fire behavior has been deployed to Trapper Joe Public Use Cabin to the northwest of the fire. This area is 15 miles north of the Sterling Highway toward the Cook Inlet. They are also working to protect valves along the ENSTAR gas pipeline and the Moose Research Center. The fire has crossed the Chickaloon River and continues to move through thick stands of black spruce toward the northeast away from communities and highway.

Two-way traffic has resumed on the Sterling Highway, with an area of reduced speed between mileposts 65 and 75. However, nighttime inversions may cause areas of low visibility during evening and morning hours resulting in use of pilot cars and flaggers. Night shift resources are assigned to monitor smoke impacts and help ensure public safety along the highway. Firefighters ask the public’s cooperation in keeping speeds low and maintaining awareness.

The Swan Lake Fire is a good example of how burned areas can provide protection from future large fire growth. In the southwest area of the fire, the 2017 East Fork Fire burn scar has slowed the fire’s spread near Sterling. In the Kenai Wilderness area, the burn scar from 2001 is naturally slowing fire growth along slopes of the Kenai Mountains on the eastern edge of the fire. Other areas where refuge fire managers have completed fuel reduction projects are also helping protect neighboring communities.

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 http://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: Conditions will continue to be warm and dry, with today being the hottest day. Winds are expected to be light and variable over local terrain. Tomorrow will be similar to today.

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 WILDLIFE REFUGE INFORMATION: The Skilak 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.

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