A Fire Weather Watch has been issued for the Swan Lake Fire area from 4 p.m. today through Saturday evening for hot, dry, and windy conditions. A Fire Weather Watch is an alert to firefighters and land managers to the high potential for conditions to develop that could lead to an increase in fire danger and rapid fire spread. Temperatures are forecast to be in the low 80s with strong winds out of the north. A cold front is expected to pass through the area tonight leading to cooler but drier conditions. Cooper Landing and the Kenai River corridor to the east of the fire should expect to see more smoke today and through the weekend.
The Swan Lake Fire has burned 102,548 acres and there area 16 Alaska Division of Forestry personnel assigned to the fire, which was started by lightning on June 5. Interior pockets of heat on the southeast corner of the fire continue to burn out green islands of unburned fuel and put up smoke. There is some activity along the perimeter on the east side of the fire primarily in the Thurman Creek and Dike Creek drainages.
Smoke from the fire is visible from the Sterling Highway between mileposts 65 and 75. Motorists are advised to slow down and use caution driving through the fire area, turn on headlights when smoke is present, and be alert for other drivers potentially distracted by fire operations. Visit https://tinyurl.com/yxn6hmrq for current road conditions.
Reseeding of dozer lines constructed to keep the fire north of the Sterling Highway will continue today. Helicopter water drops will be used to cool an area of heat north of Upper Jean Lake. Motorists traveling in that area should be alert for dangerous conditions that could exist if vehicles stop along the roadway.
There is no immediate threat to values in the area, however, some area closures remain in effect. Natural fire on the landscape tends to burn in a mosaic pattern, removing areas of highly flammable black spruce as well as smoldering through mixed spruce and hardwoods. This will not only reduce the potential for future large-scale fire impacts but also leave a diverse network of habitat types that meet the needs of a variety of different wildlife within the fire area.
Drought codes are still very high and the fire is burning deep in ground fuels. It will take a substantial amount of precipitation to penetrate to the deeper duff layers. Fire personnel will continue to monitor fire activity and take further suppression action where necessary.
Air quality monitors have been set up in the fire area. Data from monitors in Cooper Landing can be viewed at https://tinyurl.com/y3rsbkr5. The monitor in Sterling can be found at https://tinyurl.com/y5ens5fv.
Due to ongoing fire activity in the area, Refuge Managers have closed the following access routes within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to the public: Mystery Creek Road and the Enstar Pipeline right-of-way north from the refuge boundary east of Sterling. Questions or requests for copies of the closure order or maps should be directed to the Refuge at (907) 262-7021. People with recreational-related questions should contact the Refuge visitor center at (907) 260-2820.