As expected, fire activity on the Swan Lake Fire (#181) burning on the northern Kenai Peninsula has increased in recent days as a result of unseasonably hot, dry weather. That trend will likely continue until a change in the weather.
While most firefighting personnel have been released from the fire, the fire continues to put up smoke that is visible from the Sterling Highway. The smoke is the result of islands of green fuel catching fire and burning in the interior of the fire and along the northern and southeast perimeters. Those pockets of burning fuel do not pose a threat and are being monitored by air and ground, according to fire managers from the Alaska Division of Forestry.
Hot, dry weather for the past week has rekindled some parts of the fire and that trend is expected to continue at least through the weekend due to a high-pressure ridge located in the Gulf of Alaska.
“Looking at the weather, we don’t see any precipitation in the forecast,” Incident Commander Trainee Torrey Short with the Alaska Division of Forestry’s Kenai-Kodiak Area office said on Wednesday.
The Swan Lake Fire was started by lightning on June 5 and has been burning for more than two months. It has burned 102,299 acres to date. Like most wildfires in Alaska, the Swan Lake Fire burned in a mosaic pattern, leaving islands of wetlands and fire-resistant fuels like hardwoods (i.e. birch, aspen and white spruce) unburned. There has been no significant growth in the fire for several days but some portions of the fire are still smoldering and holding considerable heat. When that heat finds receptive fuels in the form of unburned trees and brush, it burns them up.
However, Short said that kind of fire behavior was expected on a fire that has burned for as long and hot as the Swan Lake Fire has and it will probably continue until the fire receives substantial precipitation in the form of rain or snow.
A Type 3 incident management team is monitoring the fire from the air and ground to ensure it does not pose a threat. The primary focus for personnel right now is suppression repair in areas damaged by firefighting activity. There are currently 21 personnel assigned to the fire and that number has progressively been shrinking and will continue to do so.