Swan Lake Fire grows to 32,300 acres, blankets Southcentral in smoke
The smoke in the air over much of Southcentral comes from the Swan Lake Fire. Dry, warm conditions have allowed the blaze to grow and spread in recent weeks — and the forecast isn't changing.
As of Monday morning the fire was 32,300 acres; that's about 8,000 acres of growth over the weekend, aided by warm, dry weather. Variable, gusty winds only made the containment more difficult. The massive blaze remains just 9% contained.
Due to fire conditions, a burn suspension has been issued for the Kenai Peninsula until further notice. This includes burn barrels. Campfires are allowed but must be kept smaller than three feet in diameter and must be closely watched by someone who has plenty of water on hand. Fires should be completely extinguished and monitored to ensure they don't reignite.
The Swan Lake Fire started Wednesday, June 5 from a lightning strike. Black spruce is the primary fuel, with short grass filling in the gaps between trees. Northerly winds arriving soon will spread the inferno into an area of more black spruce.
Thunderstorms are also a concern for spreading in the coming days. Increased humidity will fuel afternoon storms on the Peninsula. Lightning is a concern too, but the bigger threat will be outflow — the dry air that blows out from the thunderstorms. Those wind gusts are powerful enough to cause rapid spreading of the fire in any direction.
Helping to contain the fire are hardwood trees, white spruce and wetlands; increased humidity in the coming days will aid in quelling the spread too.
Some 379 crew members continue to monitor the blaze, according to the Kenai Peninsula Borough. The primary concern remains the community of Sterling, about 5.5 miles west of the fire. Crews will also be monitoring the southern end of the fire as abundant black spruce in the area raises concern of rapid spreading.
Smoke concerns remain high after parts of the Sterling Highway were regulated over the weekend. The containment line remains 2 miles from the road. In addition to the highway, smoke is expected to remain over Anchorage in the coming days with little change in the forecast.
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