Firefighters on the Kenai Peninsula are mopping up a second holdover fire from last summer’s Swan Lake Fire that was reported Thursday afternoon by multiple motorists on the Sterling Highway.
The Swan Lake Overwinter #2 Fire is estimated at 7.2 acres and is not expected to grow in size.
The fire was reported at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday by several motorists who could see smoke and flames north of the Sterling Highway near milepost 68. The heel of the fire is approximately three-tenths of a mile from the highway near Peterson Road. It is located in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
A helicopter with four firefighters was dispatched to the fire to get a size up. The fire was initially estimated at 2 acres and was burning in black spruce in the burn scar of the Swan Lake Fire. The plotted in a full suppression protection area.
The fire displayed moderate fire activity with occasional flareups in dead, jack-strawed trees that burned during the Swan Lake Fire and have since been blown over. The fire has no defined perimeter and consists mainly of heat pockets in jack-strawed trees scattered across the 7.2 acre area, according to fire managers with the Alaska Division of Forestry. Some of the jack-strawed areas are waist to chest deep, making access to the fire extremely difficult.
The helicopter was used to make water drops on the fire and a second helicopter with a five-person helitack load was brought in from Palmer to assist with water drops and suppression. An eight-person squad from the Yukon Type 2 Initial Attack Crew based in Soldotna was also called on to assist and the full 22-person crew will be assigned to the fire today.
Firefighters worked until about 11 p.m. to suppress parts of the fire that were accessible.
A masticator from the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge will be used today to cut a path to the fire and remove hazard trees, providing better and safer access for firefighters. Firefighters will be working to get hose laid around the fire area today to provide a water source to extinguish hot spots. Fire managers are anticipating it will take firefighters two to three days to fully contain the fire.
This is the second holdover fire from last year’s 167,164-acre Swan Lake Fire that burned for nearly four months on both sides of the Sterling Highway. The first holdover fire was reported June 15 near milepost 66.5. That fire was a 10-foot-by-10-foot hot spot smoldering in the duff that was also reported by passing motorists on the highway. It took firefighters only about 10 minutes to extinguish that hot spot.
Due to the size and duration of the Swan Lake Fire, as well as the extreme depth that it burned, fire managers were anticipating holdover fires to pop up this summer.