Fire officials say warmer conditions and winds pushed the Swan Lake fire on the Kenai Peninsula to more than 18,000 acres on Thursday. 

The fire's growth was mainly on the southern and eastern perimeter toward the community of Sterling, according to a release on the Alaska Wildland Fire Information website. In response, hand crews strengthened containment lines to protect homes, businesses and infrastructure in the community. 

Firefighters and fire prevention specialists are continuing to visit Sterling community neighborhoods to assess properties, officials said. There is currently no immediate threat to Sterling but now is the time to be prepared. Information to safeguard property from wildland fires is available online

The persistent winds moved the fire east toward Mystery Creek Road, the release stated.

"These black spruce forests have not burned since 1947 and are extremely receptive to carrying fire," officials wrote.

Aircraft worked Wednesday afternoon to slow fire spread to the east and eliminate hot spots. Air tankers with retardant dropped six loads in the vicinity of Mystery Creek Road and limited growth to the east of the road to an estimated 100 acres. Wednesday's natural fire growth and fire fighting operations created columns of smoke that were visible across the Kenai Peninsula.

 

(Photo credit: Gannett Glacier Type 2IA fire crew)


Five hotshot crews from the Lower 48 were scheduled to arrive Thursday, according to the release, and will focus on holding the firelines in the southwest while searching for spot fires that could encourage new fire growth. Fire personnel will continue to work to slow fire spread in the Mystery Creek Road area, while assessing the existing road systems for control lines.

The Alaska Incident Management Team is hosting a community meeting Friday, June 21, at the Sterling Community Center at 6 p.m. Incident command staff will provide fire information and share strategies being used to protect critical infrastructure throughout the community. All interested residents are welcome to attend.

Additionally, motorists are urged to yield to fire apparatus entering the Sterling Highway and to adhere to traffic signage staged near miles 82 and 92.

"Observing the fire from a safe location should be practiced instead of stopping along the highway," officials wrote.

Information about the fire can be obtained by calling the Fire Information line at 208-391-3488, visiting kpboem.com or inciweb.nwcg.gov/incident/6387/.

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