The first holdover fire from the 2019 Swan Lake Fire was reported on Tuesday along the Sterling Highway east of Soldotna.
Multiple passing motorists reported smoke visible from the north side of the highway near milepost 66.5 at around 10:40 a.m.
Firefighters from the Alaska Division of Forestry’s Kenai/Kodiak station responded and hiked into the area to find what they described as “a little smoker” in the Swan Lake Fire scar. The area of smoke was surrounded by downed, burned trees. The hot spot was 10-feet-by-10-feet and was smoldering in duff. It took firefighters only about 10 minutes to extinguish and mop up the hot spot.
The fire was named Swan Lake Overwinter #1. It was the first holdover fire from last summer’s 167,164-acre Swan Lake Fire, which burned for nearly five months and required the attention of thousands of firefighters over the course of the summer. The fire, which was started by lightning on June 5 in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, shut down the Sterling Highway on multiple occasions and kept the Kenai Peninsula shrouded in smoke much of the summer. It cost nearly $50 million in suppression costs, however, no homes were burned and there were no serious injuries as a result of the fire.
Due to the size and duration of the fire, as well as the extreme depth that it burned, fire managers were anticipating holdover fires to pop up this summer and have been monitoring the burned area.