Firelines east of the Sterling community held strong Monday as hot, dry weather tested firefighters’ work. Crews were busy with mop-up and suppression repair along 18 miles of firebreak north of the Sterling Highway and along the East Fork Moose River, where they kept mopping-up hotspots and burning out green pockets of black spruce.
The Homer Electric Association joined firefighters Monday to inspect the transmission line corridor north of the highway, planning further fire risk mitigation this week before the line is turned back on.
Fire activity in the muskeg on the northwest corner of the fire lessened Monday, after firefighters responded quickly to a re-burn of the 2017 East Fork Fire area. This corner of the fire along the muskeg is being managed by fire crews daily. Hot, dry weather combined with dry black spruce stands will challenge firefighters all week.
Stoked by more dry, hot weather, the fire keeps slowly moving east-northeast, burning through thick black spruce stands in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge backcountry. Protection of public use cabins and the ENSTAR gas pipeline is again a priority of hotshot firefighters to start the week.
Fire crews completed work last week to improve safety along the Sterling Fire Break. On Monday, Alaska Gov. Dunleavy visited the fire to thank firefighters. The Alaska Black Team is approaching the end of their assignment. Type 2 Incident Management Team Northwest 13 is shadowing the Alaska Team in preparation of assuming command of the fire Wednesday morning.
Smoke and haze conditions on the Kenai Peninsula were moderate Monday. Smoke remains a concern. For smoke forecasts from Alaska wildfires, visit UAFSMOKE at http://smoke.alaska.edu.
Traffic moved along Monday on the Sterling Highway, with only minor delays due to re-started road construction. Please use lights and caution driving along the highway in the fire area, as firefighters and construction workers are working along the road. A night crew will be patrolling and monitoring for smoke and flare-ups. If conditions deteriorate due to nighttime inversions, traffic delays may be possible.
The mosaic burn pattern of the Swan Lake Fire is removing hazardous black spruce and providing for a more fire-resilient landscape in the future. One of the best ways to protect your home from fire and boost community-wide safety is to remove flammable vegetation near buildings and needles from roofs. For information about other Firewise actions you can take to increase defensible space around your property, please visit http://forestry.alaska.gov/fire/firewise.
WEATHER: High pressure is parked over the Kenai Peninsula this week. Southcentral Alaska weather in the upcoming days is forecast to be hot and dry, with variable winds. Smoke should be moderate.
SAFETY: For current road conditions visit http://511.alaska.gov. The Temporary Flight Restriction (TFR) over the fire area includes the Sterling Highway corridor to support suppression efforts and firefighter safety. Pilots can confirm the current TFR restrictions at http://tfr.faa.gov. Personal drone operations are not permitted on the refuge.
KENAI NATIONAL WILDLIFE REFUGE INFORMATION: The Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area partially re-opened Monday to public use at Lower and Upper Ohmer Lakes, Lower Ohmer Campground, Upper and Lower Skilak Lake Campgrounds, and Upper Ohmer Lake Cabin. Skilak Lake Road, along with Jim’s, Upper and Lower Skilak landings remain open. Contact the Refuge Visitor Center at 907-260-2820 or online at http://kenai.fws.gov.