10% contained: Swan Lake Fire exceeds 40,000 acres
The Swan Lake fire grew an additional 3,000 acres Tuesday night into Wednesday, with fire activity increasing earlier than on previous days. The fire, which is roughly 6 miles northeast of Sterling, started on June 5 from a lightning strike.
The fire has been growing ever since. To date, it is only 10% contained with an estimated containment date on August 31.
According to fire officials, crews conducted a strategic fire operation Tuesday to establish a control line and draw the fire away from the Sterling Highway. This is being done to allow the fire to move into areas away from critical infrastructure. Crews are also working to protect cabins and Enstar Natural Gas along the northeaster perimeter.
Because of the growing wildfire and current weather pattern in place, a dense smoke advisory has been issued for the Interior of the Kenai Peninsula until 6 p.m. Thursday. Visibility is expected to be near zero and according to fire crews, those traveling near the fire can expect traffic delays. These delays come as flaggers and pilot cars will be moving traffic through a single lane along sections of the Sterling Highway as fire crews will be using one full lane for their operations.
The fire is having no trouble spreading, as fuels are becoming critically dry, as the last time the area received any significant moisture was June 11. With the fuels being dry enough, it won't take much wind to push the fire into other areas. The fuels will likely continue to become drier as high pressure settles into the region. This will lead to more active wildfire activity and additional smoke.
With more smoke likely across Southcentral and into the Interior, air quality could worsen. Those with health conditions should take steps to limit their exposure to smoke.
Currently an Air Quality Advisory is in effect for Southcentral, Central and Eastern Alaska through the end of this week. The air quality is expected to vary between good and unhealthy depending on the winds and your proximity to the fires. Areas downward from the fires will experience hazardous levels of smoke, with worse conditions overnight and during the early morning hours.
Even those not near the proximity of the fire are seeing an increase in smoke activity. Photos from the FAA show just how far south the smoke has spread, where visibility in Seward is greatly reduced.
Because of the current fire situation on the Kenai Peninsula, the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area is closed to public use, including campgrounds, trails and cabins. Skilak Lake Road, along with Jim’s, Upper and Lower Skilak landings are still open.
Information about the fire can be obtained by calling the Fire Information line at 208-391-3488, visiting the Kenai Peninsula Borough emergency response website or checking the fire incident information system.
Correction: An earlier version of this story stated the estimated containment date of the Swan Lake fire was August 10. The correct estimated containment date is August 31.
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