Lightning ignited the fire on June 5, 2019 in a remote area of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Wilderness. The area was classified as a Limited Protection Zone in accordance with The Interagency Fire Management Plans for Alaska. That classification indicates low values at risk and difficult or costly suppression efforts. Consequently, it was initially put in a monitor only status. Over the next week the fire grew from an estimated 4 to 5 acres to over 12,700 acres. Active suppression efforts were implemented and the first of several incident management teams was assigned. Important infrastructure was protected, but the spread continued, reaching 15,600 acres on June 19. Heavy smoke became an issue triggering a temporary closure on the Sterling Highway and contributing to an air quality advisory for southcentral Alaska.
During the last week of June, the perimeter grew from 32,300 acres to over62,000 acres under unseasonably hot, dry conditions. In early July, spread to the south and west was largely arrested; however, it began moving east and northeast. Dense smoke was sent into Cooper Landing and Seward. The fire reached 79,000 acres. In response, the Chugach National Forest and Kenai National Wildlife Refuge issued closures for trails affected by the fire. Structures in Cooper Landing were assessed for fire readiness. Most of the fire was patrolled by aircraft. Interior pockets of fuel continued to burn, but most of the perimeter stayed quiet.
On July 15, the fire was over 100,000 acres and staffed by 440 personnel. A warming and drying trend kindled scattered hot spots near control lines, but all lines held. A series of rain events with amounts ranging from one quarter inch on July19 up to two inches on July 28, greatly diminished fire activity, arrested growth and prompted staffing reductions.
The work focus shifted to repairing suppression damage. The return of warm, dry conditions increased activity within the interior of the burn. Latent embers lingering deep in the decaying vegetation under the forest floor flared up and began to consume previously unburned fuels—especially on the eastern perimeter. Helicopter water drops were used to reduce further spread. Meanwhile, mechanical suppression repair was completed and fire personnel began reseeding operations to prevent erosion and prevent invasive weed introduction.
An August 17 wind event, with velocities exceeding 35 mph, re-ignited an apparently cool area of the fire and spread it south of the Sterling Highway into the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area. Over the next week the fire grew an additional 50-thousand acres and created fire, smoke and travel impacts to adjacent communities.
As of August 31, 2019, the fire was 162,179 acres with 725 personnel assigned.
|Current as of|
|Date of Origin||Wednesday June 05th, 2019 approx. 06:52 PM|
|Location||Approx. 5 miles northeast of Sterling, AK|
|Incident Commander||Rick Connell|
|Coordinates||60.631 latitude, -150.438 longitude|
|Percent of Perimeter Contained||81%|
|Estimated Containment Date||Tuesday October 01st, 2019 approx. 12:00 AM|
Timber (Grass and Understory)
Short Grass (1 foot)
Brush (2 feet)
Fuel loading is variable black spruce, birch, grass and brush.
Firefighters are continuing suppression repair operations and the monitoring of fire lines in the Kenai Wilderness, along road and trail corridors and around communities of Sterling and Copper Landing. Infrared capable UAS drones are being used to identify heat sources within the fire perimeter to assist with mop-up operations.
|Projected Incident Activity|
12 hours: Limited drying may occur at upper levels of litter and duff, but should not rebound sufficiently to support surface fire spread. Deep duff will continue to smolder.
24 hours: Deep duff pockets and heavy fuels will continue to smolder despite precipitation received on the fire.
Tuesday will be dry in the morning followed by rain in the afternoon as a system approaches from the west. A stronger system will bring wetting rain and colder air to the fire by Wednesday afternoon.