Better mapping has reduced the size of the Loon Lake Fire (#180) burning in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge from 150 to approximately 75 acres as of early Monday morning. Little growth was expected overnight following an aggressive aerial attack in response to increased fire activity Sunday afternoon. The fire was 15 percent contained as of Monday morning.
Multiple aircraft bombed the fire with water drops for much of Sunday afternoon and evening to quell an uptick in fire behavior. To get a context of Sunday’s aerial assault, just one of the two water-scooping aircraft that was working on the fire reported making 69 water drops for a total of 48,000 gallons of water. Figures for the second water scooper, which was out of commission for a short time with a mechanical issue, were not available. The water scoopers were scooping water from Swan Lake, only about one-half mile away, for quick turnaround times.
An air tanker dropped another approximately 10,000 gallons of water on the fire and three loads of retardant totaling about 7,700 gallons were dropped around the south flank of the fire to pen it in with retardant lines and slow it’s progression. Both the water and retardant drops reduced fire behavior significantly and the fire was producing very little smoke as of 11:30 a.m. Monday.
Fifteen members of the Gannett Glacier Crew were flown into the fire early Sunday evening and are beginning to secure containment line on the south flank of the fire. The fire is burning north and west of where the 170,000 Swan Lake Fire burned in 2019. The primary focus at this point is securing the south flank to prevent spread toward the community of Sterling and the Sterling Highway.
Two more hotshot crews – the Pioneer Peak Hotshots from the Division of Forestry and Midnight Sun Hotshots from the BLM Alaska Fire Service – are enroute to the fire and should join Gannett Glacier on the fireline this afternoon to bolster containment work on the ground.
A Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) has been put in place over the fire to ensure a safe environment for aircraft working on the fire. For a description of the TFR, go to https://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_1_2229.html.
The Loon Lake Fire is burning in a designated wilderness area in a remote part of the Refuge about 10 ½ miles northeast of the community of Sterling and the Sterling Highway. It started only about 1 mile from the spot the Swan Lake Fire was ignited by lightning in 2019.
The fire is burning in a Limited protection area and does not currently pose a threat but Refuge managers have elected to take 100 percent suppression on the fire. The Alaska Division of Forestry is coordinating with Refuge managers to formulate a suppression plan for the fire.