Sept. 10 - 1:38 p.m.

Portions of Kenai River, forest, wildlife refuge reopen 

 
Some areas of the Kenai River, Chugach National Forest, and Kenai National Wildlife Refuge have reopened.
 
AK Fire Info said Tuesday the portion of the Upper Kenai River between Cooper Landing Bridge and Jim's Landing is open and the daytime limit on the river has been removed. Also, Russian River Campground, Russian Lake Trail, Russian River Falls, Barber Cabin and the K'Beq Day Use area is open to the public too.
 
Jim's Landing for day use of the boat launch, the overflow parking lot north of the Sterling Highway at the Visitor Contact Station, and Lower Skilak Boat Launch for boat launch access only has reopened.
 
There are still restrictions in place for a channel on the south side of the Kenai River from approximately River Mile 69.5 to River Mile 71.5. The Kenai River remains closed beyond Jim’s Landing to Skilak Lake, according to AK Fire Info.
 
Other closures include the Lower Skilak campground and day-use facility remains closed. All the lands off the Lower Skilak boat access road, including Marsh Lake and Day Use facilities including Bottenintnin Lake remain closed.
 
Additionally, all refuge lands that have been burned are closed to public access. 
 
As of Tuesday, the Swan Lake Fire is 37% contained and has burned 163,714 acres with 430 personnel working the fire, per AK Fire Info.
 

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Sept. 9 - 5:40 p.m.

State lifts burn suspension for Kenai Peninsula after rain

After some much-needed rain, the Department of Natural Resources rescinded a burn suspension for the Kenai Peninsula.

As of 8 a.m. on Sept. 9 all open burning and other burning covered under the general burn permit is allowed, according to a release Monday. DNR says people still need to get a permit though.

The agency asks people to please follow the "safe burning platform" mentioned in the permit.

 

READ MORE: State lifts burn suspension for Kenai Peninsula after rain 

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Sept. 8 - 7:50 a.m.

New map shows Swan Lake Fire is 30% contained

The Swan Lake Fire is still 163,386 acres but is now 30% contained.

 

A larger, printable version of the map is available on AK Fire Info.

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Sept. 5 - 1:39 p.m.

Fire map: Updated acreage and containment

Fire officials have released a new Swan Lake Fire map with updated numbers for acreage and containment.

According to a post on AK Fire Info, the fire is now 163,686 acres and 29% contained.

Swan Lake Fire map (Photo: AK Fire Info)

 

Meanwhile, the management team currently in charge of fighting the fire is prepping for a transition. Here's the latest update, according to the post:
 

The Great Basin Incident Management Team’s time on the Swan Lake Fire will conclude early next week. To prepare for transition, the team has been assessing the future complexity of the fire with their long-term fire analysts, meteorologists, and fire managers. The decision has been made, in cooperation with local agency administrators, to bring in the Type II Northern Rockies Team 4.

“We are already in communication with the incoming incident management team, sharing information with them,” said Marty Adell, Incident Commander. “Many firefighters, air resources and equipment will remain through the transition and will continue to work with the new team. Our team is committed to ensuring that the new team will be successful.”

The incoming incident management team will arrive over the weekend, work together with the current team on Monday, and be in command of the fire next Tuesday morning.

 

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Sept. 3 - 7:44 p.m.

Burn closure in Kenai Peninsula Borough to be lifted

An emergency burn closure for the Kenai Peninsula and Matanuska-Susitna boroughs is being lifted this week, officials with the Alaska Division of Forestry said.

 
User: Alaska DNR- Division of Forestry (DOF) To: link

 

The closure went into effect about two weeks ago, prohibiting all open burning, including campfires and charcoal grills, on state, private and municipal lands. At 8 a.m. Wednesday, it will be rescinded.

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Sept. 3 - 6 p.m.

WATCH: Swan Lake Fire community meeting

 

 
User: KPB Alerts To: link

 

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Sept. 3 - 2 p.m.

Swan Lake Fire operational update

Here's the latest operational update from fire officials working the Swan Lake Fire, according to an update posted to AK Fire Info:

Swan Lake Fire saw crew (Photo: AK Fire Info)

 

Firefighters are utilizing the overnight moisture to assist in mop up operations to further contain the fire. The reduced fire activity allows firefighters to build line closer to the fire’s edge, south of Resurrection Pass Trail. The priority is to reduce potential fire spread toward Cooper Landing, if fire activity picks up again. Chipping operations will continue in the Cooper Landing area to reduce slash and larger debris material.

Drones have been, and will continue, to find hot spots along the fire edges to assist firefighters in cooling and extinguishing those areas. A Wildland Fire Use Module has been taken by boat to Doroshin Bay to prep the area to protect a public use cabin there. Modules are 10-person, specialized firefighting teams with the ability to work independently in remote areas. Chainsaw and mop up operations are being conducted on the southwest side near Sterling of fire to clean up tree debris along the fires edge from past wind events.

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Sept. 3 - 12:11 p.m.

Disaster recovery grants available for Matanuska-Susitna and Kenai Peninsula residents

Alaskans in the Matanuska-Susitna and Kenai Peninsula boroughs may be eligible for disaster recovery grants for wildfire damages to their homes and other property. 

The Department of Military and Veterans Affairs announced the grants in a press release Friday. Gov. Mike Dunleavy declared a state disaster on Aug. 23 allowing the individual and public assistance programs to go in effect. 

There are three types of assistance available for homeowners, renters and organizations.

READ MORE: Disaster assistance available for Alaskans affected by wildfires 

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Sept. 3 - 8:54 a.m.

Evacuation levels lowered, pilot cars removed

As of 7 a.m. Tuesday, evacuation levels have been lowered for all areas in Cooper Landing. Evacuation orders have been removed for the Feuding and Adkins areas, according to an update from the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

 
User: KPB Alerts To: link

"Cooper Landing and Sterling residents should remain aware and prepared however until a [fire season-ending weather] transition occurs. Fire managers say several inches of rain across all areas of the Swan Lake Fire are needed before the fire will be identified as 'controlled," the borough wrote.

Traffic will resume to normal operations without pilot cars on the Sterling Highway but the borough says drivers may still see the cars in road construction zones. 

"Motorists are encouraged to use caution as fire-weakened trees, which can fall over, remain a hazard," KPB said. "Motorists should drive with headlights on at all times and be aware of fire personnel and vehicles still in the fire area."

Skilak Lake Road remains closed.

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Sept. 2

Swan Lake fire sees no growth, winds complicate firefighting

The Swan Lake fire has seen no growth with the recent rainfall, but crews are facing new challenges that blew in with the rain.

AK Fire Info said in a release, the Swan Lake fire is still a little more than 162 thousand acres and 29% contained. Fire officials say that area had ten mile-per-hour south to southwest winds and gusts over 20 miles per hour.

With gusty winds and fire-damaged trees falling down, crews said they were not able to get areas they needed to so instead they focused more on the perimeters.

Rough water prevented boat travel to some locations on the south flank and air turbulence grounded aircraft operations used to carry and dump water on the fires, AK Fire Info said.

Even with the strong winds, all the fire lines were stable.

AK Fire Info says more than 700 personnel are fighting this fire.

Those crews were able to get a little help from the rain, but the fight isn't over just yet. They will be having two new community meetings for Sterling and Cooper Landing.

Both meetings will be Sept. 3  at 6 p.m. The Cooper Landing meeting will be held at the Cooper Landing school and the Sterling meeting will be held at the Sterling community center.

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Sept. 1 - 3 p.m.

Officials ask people not to gather by air tankers

AK Fire Info says people gathering to see the super scoopers on Kenai Lake near Cooper Landing should only watch the aircraft from designated viewing areas for safety reasons.

"Stopped vehicles and pedestrians on or near it are at risk of being struck by moving vehicles," the update reads. "Do not watch from a location directly under the [flight path] of the aircraft.  A mechanical failure or falling debris from the aircraft could cause serious injury."

Canadian air tanker refilling and getting ready for water drops. (Photo courtesy AK Fire Info)

 

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Sept. 1 - 8:58 a.m.

Swan Lake Fire 162,179 acres, 29% contained

AK Fire Info reports:

The fire remains at 162,179 acres and is now at 29% containment. A trace of rain was reported overnight on the fire. Expect to see some smoke and fire activity on the southern end of the fire as winds increase in the afternoon.

 

Click the map for a high quality, printable version.

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Aug. 31 - 10 p.m.

What happened on Sunday, Aug. 25?

Videos of people driving alongside flames seen from the Sterling Highway on Aug. 25 went viral last week. The Swan lake Fire Incident Management Team has now released a response explaining how the events unfolded.

 

 

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Aug. 30 - 7:08 p.m.

Swan Lake Fire traffic delays for holiday weekend

If your Labor Day weekend plans have you driving on the Sterling Highway be prepared for multiple stops and sitting in traffic for hours.

Expect delays on the Sterling Highway between Sterling and the junction with the Seward Highway. The Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management has the latest information at kpboem.com, on Facebook at KPB Alerts and at their call center at 907-262-INFO (4636).

WATCH: KTVA's Cassie Schirm has the latest info for traffic over the next few days.

 

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Aug. 30 - 6 p.m.

Swan Lake Fire community meeting

Watch fire officials give the latest updates on the Swan Lake Fire:

 
User: KPB Alerts To: link

 

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Aug. 30 - 4:21 p.m.

Swan Lake Fire progression map

A new update posted to AK Fire Info shows an updated progression map of the Swan Lake Fire:

Map that shows the progression of the Swan Lake Fire (Photo: AK Fire Info)

 

Click the map for a high quality, printable version.

___   

Aug. 30 - 3 p.m.

Burn closure for Mat-Su and Kenai Peninsula boroughs amended

A new update from the Alaska Division of Forestry says an emergency burn closure prohibiting all open burning and the use of charcoal grills in the Kenai Peninsula and Matanuska-Susitna boroughs has been amended to allow campfires in firefighting camps.

The order, which took effect on Aug. 21, was amended to read:

Warming and cooking campfires as defined under 11 AAC 95.412 – 11 AAC 95.495 that are established in wildland fire incident command posts and authorized spike camps that are in use by emergency responders and crews and meet the following conditions are excepted from this closure:

  • less than three feet in diameter and two feet in flame height;
  • consist of only non-treated wood and/or paper debris;
  • are directly supervised at all times;
  • are fully extinguished and cold to the touch when not in use.

According to DOF, the order was amended to fix a technical point concerning firefighters' use of fire for cooking and warming while on the job.

"Many firefighters staying in fire camps must cook their own food and use small cooking fires for that purpose," DOF said.

Read the full amended burn closure online.

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Aug. 30 - 1:22 p.m.

Winds over the Swan Lake Fire shift north

The winds over the Swan Lake Fire shifted to the north Thursday, bringing dense smoke into the Anchorage Bowl. The air quality quickly dropped from "Moderate" to "Unhealthy" where it has stayed for the last 19 hours.

The visibility is also being affected by the smoke. Under clear conditions, visibility is typically about 10 miles but since 3 p.m. Thursday the visibility in Anchorage has been down to five miles or less, at times dropping as low as just one mile.

When the air quality is unhealthy, the Environmental Protection Agency says "Everyone may begin to experience health effects; members of sensitive groups may experience more serious health effects".

They also recommend that sensitive groups avoid prolonged or heavy exertion and move activities indoors or reschedule to a time when the air quality is better.

For everyone else, they recommend reducing prolonged or heavy exertion and take more breaks during all outdoor activities.

READ MORE: ASD cancels outdoor activities due to air quality 

___   

Aug. 30 - 11:17 a.m.

The latest updates for Cooper Landing and Sterling

Fire officials have posted an update for the communities of Cooper Landing and Sterling to AK Fire Info. 

Cooper Landing

Fire behavior over the entire area was generally light, partially due to thick smoke enveloping the east side of the fire in the early afternoon. The Trout Lake-Resurrection Trail area remains a primary focus on the east flank. Crews began working this difficult-to-access area; however, safety and logistical support issues limited progress. Fire managers are reevaluating methods to address those issues and construct containment lines around one of the last areas not completed. South of the Sterling Highway, crews concentrated on extinguishing remaining heat sources adjacent to the fire perimeter, commonly referred to as mop up. This establishes a wider barrier to stop fire spread. Around Cooper Landing, the structure protection group in conjunction with local fire department personnel made good progress in reducing fuels and installing outdoor sprinklers around buildings.

Cooper Landing remains in a SET status due to fire activity. All residents should be SET (fully prepared) to evacuate if the situation warrants. If you feel uncomfortable or need additional time, consider leaving before an evacuation notice. The Cooper Landing School is also closed.

Sterling

Today’s increase in completion is primarily due to securing the line from the Sterling Highway south toward Skilak Lake on the southwest side of the fire. This work entails extinguishing any remaining burning or smoldering fuels adjacent to the containment lines. Fire fighters on the remainder of the southwestern quadrant are making good progress on similar work.

The Sterling neighborhoods east of Feuding Lane and east of Adkins Road remain in a READY status. A READY notification means residents should be preparing for a potential evacuation should the threat level increase.

 

 
User: KPB Alerts To: link

 

Officials have also posted a holiday travel advisory for Labor Day weekend. Travelers should expect delays and be prepared for wait times lasting from 40 minutes to several hours.

___   

Aug. 30 - 9:30 a.m.

Community meeting scheduled for tonight

Fire officials have scheduled a Swan Lake Fire community meeting at the Sterling Community Center at 6 p.m. for those seeking information on the Swan Lake fire.

___   

Aug. 30 - 8:50 a.m.

Updated Swan Lake Fire evacuation map

Here are the latest updates for the Cooper Landing and Sterling areas from fire officials, according to a post on AK Fire Info.

The fire is currently 162,179 acres and is now 27% complete. On the southwest corner of the fire, south of Sterling Highway, a portion of the line is now showing as complete. This means that fire managers feel safe that heat has been extinguished within 30-50′ of the fireline.

Click the map to enlarge. 

Aug. 30 - 8:32 a.m.

WATCH: Swan Lake Fire update

Fire officials give an update on the Swan Lake Fire.

 
User: KPB Alerts To: link

 

___   

Aug. 29 - 8:40 p.m.

Hunters urged to avoid wildfire areas

As firefighters continue to work on active wildfires in the area, hunters are asked to be aware of fire conditions on the Kenai Peninsula.

READ MORE: Kenai Peninsula hunters urged to avoid wildfire areas 

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Aug. 29 - 5:28 p.m.

Heavy smoke continues to impact air operations

Fire officials say heavy smoke is impacting air operations on the Swan Lake Fire.

Helicopters are not able to fly on the eastern side of the fire near the Resurrection Trail; however, fire officials say this doesn't mean air resources aren't being used.

Swan Lake Fire smoke on Aug. 26, 2019 (Photo: AK Fire Info)

" An unmanned air vehicle, or drone, is currently being used on the south central area of the fire, above Skilak Lake," an updated post on AK Fire Info said. "The drone is being used to assess the effectiveness of yesterday’s burnout operations in this area."

The post says fire managers wanted to use fire as a way to improve structure protection in the area.

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Aug. 29 - 4:57 p.m.

Air quality to improve for Labor Day weekend

Labor Day marks the unofficial end of summer as many gear up to settle into school and await the arrival of fall.

For many, it's one last big vacation of the year thanks to the long weekend and continued summer-like weather. In Alaska, the temperatures are already beginning to vary greatly following what is one of the warmest summers on record.

Accompanying this summer were numerous wildfires that scorched The Last Frontier, which led to air quality advisories for many areas through the summer. But as summer unofficially comes to an end, many may find that they are beginning to breathe cleaner air.

If you're tired of the smoke and the health issues it causes, there's good news in the forecast.

READ MORE: Air quality to improve for Labor Day weekend 

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Aug. 29 - 11:30 a.m.

The latest updates for Cooper Landing and Sterling

As of 7 a.m. Thursday the Sterling Highway was open to one lane of traffic with a pilot car.

 
User: KPB Alerts To: link

Here are the latest updates for the Cooper Landing and Sterling areas from fire officials, according to a post on AK Fire Info.

Swan Lake Fire map with perimeter updated on Aug. 29, 2019 (Photo: Ak Fire Info)

Cooper Landing

More firefighters including four engines and a hot shot crew are working in Cooper Landing to protect structures and bolster resources in the area, after smoke hampered fire operations by air Wednesday.

The most active region of the fire is on the east side in the Juneau Creek drainage, where the fire moved down hill to the south as well as north of Resurrection Trail. The growth does not put Cooper Landing in immediate danger, according to the online update, fire management is planning ways to stem the spread in the difficult terrain. Three crews will be hiking in Thursday to create new containment lines in the area.

The community of Cooper Landing remains in "Set" or level two evacuation status. All residents should be fully prepared to leave if needed. 

School in Cooper Landing has been canceled until Tuesday, Sept. 3 at the earliest, according to the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.

Sterling

While the fire grew in the southwest corner it remained inside containment lines. Work will continue to secure the perimeter in the area where fire is near the lines. According to the update, structure protection is "effectively in place" on the west side of the fire.

Sterling neighborhoods of Feuding Lane and east of Adkins Road remain in "Ready" or level one evacuation status. Residents should be preparing for potential evacuation.

New closures

Updated closure notices were published Thursday morning on the KPB joint information center website:

Due to concern for public health and safety related to the Swan Lake wildfire activity, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and U.S. Forest Service have issued emergency area closure orders for portions of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and the Chugach National Forest - Seward Ranger District.

Closures for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge include specific lands adjacent to and including the Swan Lake Fire north of Sterling Highway and all public facilities and lands within the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area. Consult the Refuge Closure Order and map for detailed description.

Closures for the Chugach National Forest include:

  • All National Forest Service (NFS) lands and facilities south of American Creek to its intersection with Resurrection Pass Trail
  • All NFS lands west of Resurrection Pass Trail to Devils Creek Trail
  • All NFS lands southwest of the Devils Creek Trail to Quartz Creek
  • All NFS lands west of Quartz Creek and north of the Sterling Highway to the Kenai National Wildlife
  • Refuge/National Forest boundary
  • All NFS lands east of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge/National Forest boundary to American Creek

Orders for the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge can be found here:
https://www.fws.gov/refuge/kenai/

Orders for the Chugach National Forest can be found here:
https://www.fs.usda.gov/alerts/chugach/alerts-notices

___

Aug. 28 - 8:21 p.m.

Swan Lake Fire bigger than size of Chicago, snarls up Sterling Hwy.

The Swan Lake Fire continues to grow. KTVA's Cassie Schirm has the latest information on the fire and what people in the Cooper Landing area can expect.

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Aug. 28 - 6 p.m.

WATCH: Swan Lake Fire community meeting

A community meeting on the Swan Lake Fire is underway in Cooper Landing.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

___ 

Aug. 28 - 5:07 p.m.

Smoke fills Cooper Landing

Fire officials say heavy smoke in Cooper Landing is preventing them from flying aircraft. An update posted to AK Fire Info says firefighters on the ground are continuing to take action to strengthen firelines and protect structures in the area.

 
User: KPB Alerts To: link

___ 

Aug. 28 - 1 p.m.

Fire activity near Trout Lake may be visible from the Sterling Highway

Fire officials say fire activity near Trout Like could be visible from the Sterling Highway Wednesday afternoon.

View looking north from near Sackett’s Store (Photo: AK Fire Info)

Here are the latest updates on the Swan Lake Fire, according to a post on AK Fire Info:

Crews have been working to complete a bulldozer line on the northern edge of Cooper Land. On the east side of the fire area, the smoke is starting to clear but use of aircraft has been limited because of the smoke. Drones are being used by firefighters to gather intelligence as they are equipped with infrared cameras that can see heat through the smoke.

It remains very smoky in the Sterling/Soldotna area but work is going well on the western edge of the fire, south of the highway. Crews continue to “mop up”, making sure the fire is out cold along the edge.

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Aug. 28 - 10:42 a.m.

Alaska Organized Militia comes together to respond to wildfires

When it comes to natural disasters and emergencies across the state, there are lesser-known organizations located deep within the Department of Military and Veterans Affairs that play major roles: the Alaska State Defense Force and Alaska Naval Militia.

According to Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead with the Alaska National Guard, the Naval Militia are personnel in the Navy reserves that can be activated to support the state in times of dire need.

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Aug. 28 - 9 a.m.

WATCH: Swan Lake Fire operational update

Operations Section Chief Jeff Surber gives a Wednesday morning update on the Swan Lake Fire. The fire is now 160,033 acres and 671 firefighters and support personnel are working to contain it.

Watch the full video:

___ 

Aug. 28 - 7:30 a.m.

The latest updates for Cooper Landing and Sterling

Here are the latest updates for the Cooper Landing and Sterling areas from fire officials, according to a post on AK Fire Info.

Swan Lake Fire (Photo: AK Fire Info)

Cooper Landing

In Cooper Landing, a “swing shift” of firefighters has been added to provide additional coverage to the current day and nighttime operations. The swing shift will provide additional support between 10:00 am and midnight. All firefighters in Cooper Landing are working to bolster defensible space around structures, to set up water sprinklers, and to improve contingency lines along the power line corridor.

Helicopters are being used to drop water on the 175 acre area of the fire that has crossed Resurrection Trail to limit growth towards Cooper Landing. It is too smoky to utilize fixed wing water scoopers in this area. The area is being assessed to determine how additional firefighting resources can be deployed safely. Protection of cabins along the trail is being provided. Firefighters are using control lines on the Fuller Lake Trail to limit fire movement towards the east

An additional crew will be added to the group being shuttled across the Kenai River today to work on constructing fire line towards Surprise Creek. These firefighters are working to remove any heat on the ground within 30-50’ of the fireline.

Cooper Landing remains in a SET status due to fire activity. All residents should be SET to evacuate if the situation warrants. If you feel uncomfortable or need additional time, consider leaving before an evacuation notice.

Sterling

A smoke column was visible on Tuesday as pockets of unburned fuel south of the highway burned. This burning of fuels within the fire perimeter will continue. Water scoopers were used to keep the fire in check, providing protection to the Hidden Lake Campground. Protection of structures is being provided with pump and sprinkler systems at Kelly Lake, Engineer Lake, Upper Ohmer cabins, Skilak Guard Station and Hidden Lake Pavilion.

Closer to Sterling, crews continue their work on the southwestern corner of the fire, which had been holding and is not posing a current threat.

The Sterling neighborhoods east of Feuding Lane and east of Adkins Road remain in a READY status. A READY notification is NOT a notice to leave. This notification means that you must be ready for potential evacuation if there is a fire in your area.

___ 

Aug. 27 - 9:15 p.m.

Swan Lake Fire continues to grow, changing ready, set, go levels

Ash is falling down on the ground and smoke plumes can be seen in the sky from the Swan Lake Fire. The fire is now estimated at 158,042 acres according to AK Fire Info at 9:15 p.m.

Fire officials said due to the fire and rapidly changing situations, the status of evacuation levels and the Sterling Highway can change quickly.

These decisions are made in an effort to provide safety for the public and firefighters. The Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management has the latest information on Facebook at KPB Alerts and at their call center at 907-262-INFO (4636).

When traveling along the Sterling Highway, do not pull over in the fire area. The Cooper Landing Community remains in the "SET" status and the Sterling neighborhood is in a "READY" status, according to an update posted after 9:00 p.m. on AK Fire Info. 

Watch: Full story from KTVA's Cassie Schirm below has details.

 

___ 

Aug. 27 - 8 p.m.

WATCH: Swan Lake Fire operations update

Operations Section Chief Brett Waters shared an update on firefighting and fire activity on the Swan Lake Fire.

Watch the full video:

___ 

Aug. 27 - 5:43 p.m.

WATCH: Swan Lake Fire operations update

Operations Chief Rocky Gilbert shared an update on the Swan Lake Fire Tuesday evening. There has been no change in road status or evacuation levels as of 5:30 p.m.

Watch the full video:

___ 

Aug. 27 - 5:28 p.m.

Community meeting scheduled for Wednesday night

A community meeting for those seeking information on the Swan Lake Fire has been scheduled for Wednesday, Aug. 28 at the Cooper Landing School at 6 p.m.

Swan Lake Fire community meeting (Photo: AK Fire Info)

___ 

Aug. 27 - 4:49 p.m.

2 charged in crash that injured National Guardsmen working Swan Lake Fire

Two people from Soldotna were arrested and face charges in what police have said was a drunk-driving crash that injured three members of the Alaska Air National Guard and one member of the Alaska State Defense Force who were deployed to aid with the Swan Lake Fire.

Lt. Ben Langham with the Kenai Police Department said 21-year-old Johnathan C. Tanape and 18-year-old Loren J. Burns were arrested and face multiple charges related to the incident.

READ MORE: 2 charged in crash that injured National Guardsmen working Swan Lake Fire 

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Aug. 27 - 2:47 p.m.

Sea otter pup rescued by plane in Homer despite Swan Lake Fire

A sea otter pup got a helping hand from Alaska SeaLife Center when the Swan Lake Fire began complicating a remarkable rescue. The SeaLife Center said they got the word about the pup Sunday afternoon.

Strong currents left the otter stuck on rocks in Homer, but ASLC staff couldn't reach the stranded animal because of road closures on the Sterling Highway from the Swan Lake Fire.

Staff then came together with the community and local pilot Duke Marolf, who flew a plane for free to get the otter pup to safety.

READ MORE: Sea otter pup rescued by plane in Homer despite Swan Lake Fire 

___ 

Aug. 27 - 12 p.m.

Swan Lake Fire advances toward Resurrection Trail

The latest update posted to AK Fire Info says firefighters have determined that the Swan Lake Fire advanced about 200 yards in the Resurrection Trail area overnight. Fire officials say the Trout Lake cabins and north cabins are unaffected.

Swan Lake Fire (Photo: AK Fire Info)

The post continues:

Swan Lake Air Operations have been able to put eyes on the fire. The fire has not made any significant advances south between Slaughter and Shaft Creeks. Smoke is still heavy in the area, managers are evaluating options for aerial resources. Helicopters will be dropping water to hold this line and to work in conjunction with crews on the ground.

___ 

Aug. 27 - 10:11 a.m.

Firefighters assessing perimeter, structures

A new update posted to AK Fire Info says firefighters are assessing the fire perimeter along the Sterling Highway between mile markers 63.5 and 66.5, as unburned pockets in the area are expected to burn Tuesday.

Trinity Hotshots hold the line during burnout operations along the Sterling Highway on Aug. 26, 2019 (Photo: AK Fire Info)

Swan Lake In Cooper Landing, crews are assessing structures and working to reduce fire risk around homes and businesses. They will also prepare to work on a contingency line in the Bean Creek and Slaughter areas. Firefighters will also continue constructing fireline toward Surprise Creek in an attempt to stop the fire from spreading toward the Russian River.

In Sterling, crews are working on "mopping up" within 30 to 50 feet of the fireline on the southwestern corner of the fire. Officials say "mop up of a wildland fire involves extinguishing or removing burning material near control lines to prevent reignition."

___ 

Aug. 27 - 8 a.m.

Swan Lake Fire air operations monitor fireline

Here's a photo of Swan Lake Fire air operations checking the fireline north of Cooper Landing Monday night.

Swan Lake Fire air operations checking fireline north of Cooper Landing Aug. 26, 2019 (Photo: AK Fire Info)

___ 

Aug. 27 - 5:20 a.m.

Kenai Peninsula school closure, cancellations and restrictions

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District has closed Cooper Landing School on Tuesday, Aug. 27.

The district also canceled travel for school activities until further notice:

"Activity related travel between Sterling and Cooper Landing on Sterling Highway between MP 45-71 is [canceled] until further notice. Local air quality and predictions will determine if OUTDOOR activities and athletics at or hosted by KPBSD schools are restricted."

KPBSD says school administrators will decide if recess, outdoor activities and sports practice will happen based on immediate air quality conditions.

"Cancellations or restrictions may happen if conditions change rapidly," the district wrote.

___ 

Aug. 26 - 11 p.m.

Sterling Highway reopened with pilot cars, Cooper Landing prepped to evacuate

The community of Cooper Landing is in a level 2 evacuation, or "SET" status, from the Swan Lake Fire. According to an update posted at 10 p.m. on AK Fire Info, the fire crossed Resurrection Trail and was near Slaughter and Slate Creeks, which is about two miles from Cooper Landing.

A level 2 evacuation means residents should be "set" to evacuate, having all items with them to leave at a moment's notice. Officials say if people feel unsafe they should evacuate immediately.

The Swan Lake Fire continues to be a dynamic situation, fire officials wrote, adding the Sterling Highway could be opened or closed at any time. The highway has been intermittently shut down and reopened for the past week after the fire flared up from heavy winds just over a week ago.

 
User: KPB Alerts To: link

In a late night update from the Kenai Peninsula Borough on Facebook, the Sterling Highway was back open just before 10:30 p.m. after being closed at the Y for several hours to allow people leaving Cooper Landing to get out. Shelters have been set up at Seward High School and the Soldotna Sports Complex for those in need. The Centennial and Swiftwater campgrounds have also been opened for those who may need to stay there.

Crews were working late to reinforce fire lines, according to AK Fire Info. The borough's Facebook post also stated that firefighters would be on the line overnight. Fire managers were making plans for aircraft and other resources to respond as early as possible Tuesday morning to protect Cooper Landing.

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Aug. 26 - 7:39 p.m.

Law enforcement assist motorists overnight along Sterling Highway

A new update posted to AK Fire Info shows how important it is to follow the directions of officials while traveling on the Sterling Highway overnight.

According to fire officials, law enforcement officers from Kenai National Wildlife Refuges assisted two motorists Sunday night as they were managing traffic along the highway. Smoke and flames from the Swan Lake Fire had resulted in delays and pilot car operations in the area.

Here's what happened, according to the post:

After the road had reopened about 9 p.m., with pilot cars escorting motorist through smoky conditions, Alaska State Trooper dispatch received a report of high winds increasing fire activity near the road and reduced visibility from smoke. Refuge officers on site were immediately notified by dispatchers and proceeded to hold northbound traffic waiting to pass, and clear remaining southbound traffic that had been led through the area by a pilot car. They encountered a motorist with several children who reported abandoning a van due to smoky conditions. Officers located the vehicle as they were clearing the road of traffic and, with the help of firefighters, moved it out of harm’s way.

In a separate unrelated incident, an SUV outside the fire area experienced an electrical fire, which was extinguished with a quart of milk the driver had on hand. One of the Refuge officers assisted the driver with getting the vehicle towed to a repair shop.

Fire officials say officers are coordinating with firefighters along the highway to determine when the road is passable and when delays are necessary. Fire crews are working day and night shifts to try and suppress the fire. Delays are expected to continue.

"Motorists are reminded to obey all traffic control officials and avoid stopping on the road, for the safety of themselves, other drivers, and firefighters working in the area," the post states. "Keeping windows rolled up and outside air vents closed is also recommended, due to potentially smoky conditions."

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Aug. 26 - 5:26 p.m.

Firefighters begin 'burnout' operations along Sterling Highway

The latest update on the Swan Lake Fire posted on AK Fire Info says firefighters began "burnout" operations along a section of the Sterling Highway sometime around 2:30 p.m. Monday.

"Hot shot crews using drip torches are methodically lighting unburned fuel on the south side of the highway approximately between mile markers 63.5 and 66.5," the update says. " The crews are working from both ends and will meet in the middle, if the favorable winds persist long enough."

Smoke from Swan Lake Fire along the Sterling Highway (Photo: AK Fire Info)

Fire officials say these operations will help fire managers control the fire on their terms, while also helping secure the highway corridor by removing fuel between the road and the fire.

Long traffic delays on the highway should be expected as traffic is being piloted through one lane at a time. Officials say travelers should not stop along the highway.

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Aug. 26 - 1:36 p.m.

Extreme conditions: Alaska wildfire season extended

Alaska's wildfire season has been extended because of extreme conditions causing high fire danger throughout the state. It's the first time the season has been extended since 2006.

Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige made the announcement Monday. The season, which normally begins April 1 and ends on Aug. 31, is now in effect until Sept. 30.

READ MORE: Extreme conditions: Alaska wildfire season extended 

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Aug. 26 - 1:36 p.m.

WATCH: Swan Lake Fire flames along Sterling Highway

Huge flames from the Swan Lake Fire were visible from the Sterling Highway Sunday night. Christina Johnstone was driving from Cooper Landing to Sterling when she captured this video. Kenai Peninsula Borough officials say if you don't need to drive on the highway — don't.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

READ MORE: A look at the crews behind the scenes and on the front line of the Swan Lake Fire 

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Aug. 26 - 10:20 a.m.

Traffic delays expected to continue on Sterling Highway

The Kenai Peninsula Borough says closures for the Sterling Highway are subject to change at any time. Information is available at 511.alaska.govkpoem.com, and on Facebook through KPB Alerts. A travel plan for these delays is available online

 
User: KPB Alerts To: link

 

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Aug. 26 - 6:54 a.m.

New Swan Lake Fire map, fire has burned 150,264 acres

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Aug. 25 - 8:13 p.m.

National Guard, Defense Force members hit by alleged drunk driver on Sterling Highway

Three members of the Alaska Air National Guard and one member of the Alaska State Defense Force were hurt when an alleged drunk driver hit their vehicle on the Sterling Highway early Saturday morning, according to a release from the guard sent Sunday evening.

The military service members were assigned to the Sterling Highway to help with the flow of traffic during the Swan Lake Fire.

READ MORE: National Guard, Defense Force members hit by alleged drunk driver on Sterling Highway 

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Aug. 25 - 8:59 a.m.

Air quality advisory in effect through Monday afternoon 

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has issued an air quality advisory in effect through Monday afternoon. The areas included in the advisory are Susitna Valley, Kenai Peninsula and the Copper River Valley.

More details from AK Fire Info:

Fire

Southcentral Alaska is being impacted by the smoke from multiple wildfires in the surrounding area. A listing of activity for specific fires is available at: fire.ak.blm.gov, AICC Situation Report.

Smoke

Susitna Valley: Smoke will be pushed north as winds shift to the south today and bring smoke from Swan Lake. These impacts will extend up the Alaska Range. A wind switch back to the north tomorrow afternoon will move smoke south again.

Anchorage Area: Smoke from Swan Lake has already moved into the area with the wind shift to the south. Smoke impacts may be moderated a bit today by stronger Turnagain Arm winds.

Kenai Peninsula: Winds shifting to the south should help clear smoke out of Seward and may improve air quality in Cooper Landing a bit. Sterling will be seeing the bulk of the smoke today with some being pushed towards Soldotna and Kenai later in the afternoon. Winds shift to the northwest again midday tomorrow and push smoke back to the south and east.

Full smoke outlook:

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Aug. 24 - 10:26 p.m.

Community meeting scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 25

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Aug. 24 - 10:00 p.m.

Kenai Peninsula Borough expects smoke, increased fire activity

The Kenai Peninsula Borough says Swan Lake Fire personnel expects high fire activity Sunday, Aug. 25 which could result in smoke on the road and may close the Sterling Highway for much of the day. KPB advises people to stay off the highway on Sunday.

 
User: KPB Alerts To: link

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Aug. 24 - 4:58 p.m.

A look at the crews behind the scenes and on the front line of the Swan Lake Fire

More than 400 crew members have one mission as they work behind the scenes and on the front line of the Swan Lake Fire.

Kip Shields is one of them.

“It is our highest concern to keep the public, and the flow of traffic moving, and keeping the public safe,” Shields said.

READ MORE: A look at the crews behind the scenes and on the front line of the Swan Lake Fire 

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Aug. 24 - 2:51 p.m.

Sterling Highway travel plan being made

Swan Lake Fire liaison officers, Alaska State Troopers, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management and the Alaska Department of Transportation are developing a plan to manage traffic along the Sterling Highway corridor, according to Alaska's wildland fire information site.

The group will present their plan at two community meetings this weekend:

•     Saturday, Aug. 24 at 6 p.m. at Cooper Landing School

•     Sunday, Aug. 25 at 6 p.m. at Sterling Community Center.

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Aug. 24 - 9:04 a.m.

Swan Lake Fire grows 4,000 acres

Saturday morning, fire officials say the Swan Lake Fire has grown by 4,000 acres to burn at a total of more than 148,000 acres. However, overnight rains cleared some smoke from the air.

A public meeting is planned for Saturday evening at 6 p.m. in Cooper Landing, but an exact location hasn't been set.

Here's the latest fire map from the Kenai Peninsula Borough:

The Swan Lake Fire as of Aug. 24, 2019. Courtesy Kenai Peninsula Borough.

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Aug. 23 - 6:17 p.m.

Dunleavy issues disaster declaration for wildfires

Gov. Mike Dunleavy has issued a disaster declaration for the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and Kenai Peninsula Borough in response to impacts from the McKinley, Deshka Landing and Swan Lake wildfires.

A release from the governor's office says the fires have damaged or destroyed around 83 structures, caused the evacuation of about 400 people and led to delays in travel along the Sterling and Parks highways as well as the Alaska Railroad.

“In a short amount of time, these wildfires have already cost dozens of Alaskan families everything they own. Many homes, personal belongings, and businesses are completely gone, and the disruption brought to their lives is unimaginable,” Dunleavy said. “This declaration frees up financial assistance to help the victims of these devastating fires begin to rebuild their lives as quickly as possible.”

READ MORE: Dunleavy issues disaster declaration for McKinley, Deshka Landing, Swan Lake wildfires 

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Aug. 23 - 6 p.m.

Sterling Highway open again

Fire officials say the Sterling Highway is open again.

Swan Lake Fire (Photo: AK Fire Info)

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Aug. 23 - 5:58 p.m.

Aerial resources in action

Fire officials say that Swan Lake firefighters are working on the ground and in the air along the Sterling Highway near the turn off of the Kelly/Peterson Road.

Here's an image of firefighters at work:

Swan Lake Fire (Photo: AK Fire Info)

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Aug. 23 - 3 p.m.

Travel along Sterling Highway delayed

Both lanes of traffic on the Sterling Highway between mileposts 75 and 53 is temporarily closed because of helicopter operations and firefighter safety.

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Aug. 23 - 12:38 p.m.

ASD after-school outdoor practices being moved inside

The Anchorage School District has announced that all after-school outdoor practices Friday are being moved indoors because of air quality conditions.

All outdoor athletic competitions are also being rescheduled to Saturday, Aug. 24. The district's website suggests checking with schools for new game times.

More information can be found on the ASD website.

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Aug. 23 - 11:38 a.m.

How to get the latest information from fire officials

The Swan lake Fire information line is now staffed and available for those with questions about the fire. Information boards have also been updated in 13 locations from Sterling to Tern Lake.

Information Line: 208-391-3488

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Aug. 23 - 9:40 a.m.

Crews plan for increased river flow 

In a Friday morning update posted to AK Fire Info, fire officials say the goal for the day is to minimize the fire's spread south of the Sterling Highway, southeast toward Cooper Landing and southwest toward Sterling. 

But the Russian and Kenai Rivers are expected to rise due to glacial outburst floods called jokülhaups so managers will keep up with the latest conditions and plan accordingly.

Six boats will bring crews across the Kenai River so they can work in the Surprise Creek area. Work also continues northeast along Resurrection Trail.

Perimeter of the Swan Lake Fire on Aug. 23, 2019. Courtesy AK Fire Info.

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Aug. 22 - 10 p.m.

More than 300 firefighters battle flames from the air and the ground

KTVA's Cassie Schirm shares fire officials' strategy for tackling the Swan Lake Fire from the air and the ground.

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Aug. 22 - 6:23 p.m.

Community meeting: The latest update on the Swan Lake Fire

The following video is of the community meeting in Sterling posted by the Kenai Peninsula Borough's Alerts Facebook page.

 
User: KPB Alerts To: link

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Aug. 22 - 6 p.m.

Alaska pilots: Observe TFRs, don't fly over wildfires

State fire officials are urging private pilots to keep away from active fire areas and respect airspace temporary flight restrictions.

Flight restrictions have been established in airspace over the Swan Lake Fire; however, officials say there have been "multiple incursions by private aircraft in the airspace over [the fire] in the past week."

“We understand these restrictions may be an inconvenience for pilots, but the safety of the public and firefighters has to be our number-one priority,” Tim Mowry, a spokesperson for the Alaska Division of Forestry, said. “Incursions by private aircraft endanger the rotary- and fixed-wing aircraft used to drop water or fire retardant, to transport firefighting crews and equipment, or to provide aerial reconnaissance.”

The restrictions are in effect from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. 

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Aug. 22 - 5:43 p.m.

Swan Lake Fire smoke

KTVA's Cassie Schirm is traveling to get the latest information on the Swan Lake Fire. In this video she took along the way, you can see smoke from the fire fill the air along the Sterling Highway.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

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Aug. 22 - 4:49 p.m.

Five additional handcrews arrive

The latest update posted to AK Fire Info says five additional handcrews arrived to combat the Swan Lake Fire Thursday afternoon. They have been sent to the southwestern corner of the fire, which is just above Skilak Lake.

Each crew has roughly 20 firefighters. They have completed hose lay on that corner of the fire.

Fire crews are also working on the southeastern side of the fire, where personnel were able to cross the Kenai River Thursday to "evaluate firefighting tactics and initiate line construction."

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Aug. 22 - 2:35 p.m.

Ready, Set, Go lines explained

Rocky Gilbert, the Operations Section Chief with the Great Basin Incident Management Team talked with Brenda Ahlberg, Borough OEM Information Officer, about what the Ready, Set, Go lines mean for Cooper Landing and Sterling in a video update on Thursday.

"Ready means think about what you need to take if you are evacuated, but it does NOT mean to evacuate. Yellow means SET or put everything in your car so you are ready to leave at any time. And GO means go. Sterling and Cooper Landing remain at the READY level," the online update said. "For those who can’t play videos, the SET and GO lines east of Sterling are wrong on the map shown. The green READY line west of the fire is correct but the other Sterling lines will be redrawn."

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Aug. 22 - 12:27 p.m.

Southcentral Alaska smoke outlook, air quality advisory issued for Kenai Peninsula

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has issued an air quality advisory for the Kenai Peninsula and Susitna Valley. It will be in effect through Friday afternoon.

Smoke outlook map for Aug. 22, 2019. (Photo: AK Fire Info)

The latest update from the Alaska Division of Forestry says Southcental is being impacted by the smoke from multiple wildfires. Here is their smoke outlook for Thursday:

Anchorage Area

Improved air quality today but with continued haze. Late tonight into tomorrow decreasing air quality as smoke settles into the valleys and southerly winds move Swan Lake smoke north. Kenai Peninsula communities closest to the Swan Lake Fire will continue to see most impacts, especially Cooper Landing. However eastern side down to Seward should see some improvements as smoke is pushed to the west. Sterling, Soldotna and Kenai to south Homer will see the most smoke today with decreasing air quality. Expect smoke to move out to the east tomorrow with another wind shift.

Susitna Valley

Smoke in the valley that settled overnight will lift in the morning and improve air quality. May start to see smoke increase a bit in the afternoon with winds shifting to the north. The overnight inversion will again cause smoke to settle in the valley.

If you're noticing health effects from smoke, DOF says you should limit prolonged or heavy exertion, reduce or avoid time outside and limit exercise outdoors.

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Aug. 22 - 12:01 p.m.

Thursday weather update

KTVA's Jeremy LaGoo Join talks about the worsening drought, air quality and chance of rain in the forecast.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

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Aug. 21 - 11:21 a.m.

Swan Lake Fire operations update

Fire officials released a new video explaining why the Sterling Highway had to be closed temporarily Wednesday afternoon and informing Alaskans of planned actions Thursday.

"More crews are arriving today and aircraft, including scooper planes, are ready to fly if the air clears," an online update reads. "316 people are working the fire as of this morning."

 

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Aug. 22 - 9 a.m.

Crews to work on containment lines south of Sterling Highway

Firefighting crews will start working on containment lines to the south of the Sterling Highway on Thursday to try and reduce the possibility of future road closures, according to an update from AK Fire Info.

On Wednesday, firefighters established a containment line from the highway to Skilak Lake to keep the fire from moving west toward Sterling. 

Another line north of the highway and west of the Resurrection Trail corridor is limiting the fire's spread to the east.

Crews will also keep the established lines maintained.

Aviation has been limited because of smoke, but tactical planes will check the spread of the fire Thursday.

There's a community meeting at the Sterling Community Center Thursday evening at 6.

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Aug. 21 - 11:07 p.m.

Kenai Peninsula Borough School District cancels all outdoor sports, teams traveling

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District says all outdoor sports activities at or hosted by the district are canceled until further notice.

In the announcement Wednesday, KPBSD also added any travel between Sterling and Cooper Landing on the Sterling Highway is canceled.

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Aug. 21 - 9:30 p.m.

Families near Swan Lake Fire get ready in case of evacuation

The Sterling Highway continues to close intermittently due to fire activity and thick smoke from the Swan Lake Fire reducing visibility for drivers. 

Meanwhile neighborhoods in Cooper Landing and Sterling east of Feuding Lane and east of Adkins Road are under a level one evacuation, known as "ready" mode, in case the fire moves closer. 

Suzanne and Fred Launer have lived on Feuding Lane for almost three decades. 

"It's a beautiful place to live in when there's no smoke," Suzanne said.

READ MORE: Families near Swan Lake Fire get ready in case of evacuation 

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Aug. 21 - 7:55 p.m.

WATCH: Layers of smoke from wildfires

Southcentral Alaska has seen layers of smoke from wildfires throughout the region. This drone footage shows what the smoke looked like in Anchorage on Monday.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

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Aug. 21 - 7:31 p.m.

Wednesday weather update

Chief Meteorologist Melissa Frey has the latest air quality numbers and a look at how fire danger will change in the week ahead.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

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Aug. 21 - 5:28  p.m.

Firefighters and helicopters working along the Sterling Highway

Engines and crews are working on both sides of the Sterling Highway between MP75 and MP53. The firefighters on the ground are being supported by helicopters doing bucket drops next to the highway.

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Aug. 21 - 3:15 p.m.

Community meetings scheduled for Cooper Landing and Sterling

 

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Aug. 21 - 12 p.m.

Swan Lake Fire update from AK Fire PIOs

An online update posted to AK Fire Info reads as follows:

Firefighting activities on Tuesday were focused on developing a containment line on the west side of the fire, south of the Sterling Highway. Dozers, supported by firefighters, completed an initial containment line to limit the fire’s spread to the west. Firefighters also implemented structure protection measures in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area.

The Great Basin Incident Management Team 1 assumed command of the Swan Lake Fire on Wednesday at 7:00 am. Incident objectives continue to focus on firefighter and public safety, protecting the communities and infrastructure of Cooper Landing and Sterling, minimize the disruption to traffic along the Sterling Highway, and to protect other values on the landscape.

On Wednesday, firefighters will continue constructing control lines in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area on the south side of the Sterling Highway to limit the fire’s spread to the west toward Sterling. Crews will scout options for control features on the east side of the fire, south of the highway, and deploy fire hose in this area for future response actions. Firefighters will reestablish contingency lines on the north side of the Sterling Highway west of the Resurrection Trail corridor to use as primary control lines to limit the fire’s spread to the east, on the north side of the highway. They will also be implementing structure protection measures for the public use cabins in the Resurrection Trail corridor. Additionally, firefighters will scout opportunities to develop control features on the east side of the fire, south of the highway. Tactical firefighting aircraft will be used to check the fire spread in critical areas throughout the Swan Lake Fire.

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Aug. 20 - 6:45 p.m.

Kenai Peninsula Borough school schedule and transportation changes

At least one school within the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District will have a two-hour delay Wednesday, Aug. 21.

An email from a school district spokesperson said Cooper Landing School will start the day with a delay. A determination about a full day closure will be made by 9 a.m.

"A two-hour delay start allows the KPBSD to work with multiple agencies to determine the safety of opening or closing a school," the email stated. "If a full day closure is warranted, an announcement is made as soon as possible in the morning through the district website [...] social media, mobile app, school communications, and media partners."

All other schools in the district will open on a normal schedule Wednesday. However, absences will be excused if parents choose to keep children home due to air quality, road closures or wildfire activity.

Bus transportation for River City Academy, Skyview Middle School, Soldotna High School and Sterling Elementary could be adjusted.

"The northern bus stops for Route 108 and Route 110 might be adjusted depending on Sterling Highway closures or partial closures. Information will be assessed early in the morning, and if there are changes, they will be announced by Apple Bus at approximately 6:00 AM for Route 108, and by 7:30 AM for Route 110. KPBSD will also post these updates on social media," the email stated.

The spokesperson said outdoor recess and physical activities at all schools may be modified based on air quality levels. Several sports events are scheduled for the weekend, including the annual 2019 Tsalteshi Invite, could also be canceled.

Those decisions will be made on Friday.

Updates can be found on the school district's website and social media.

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Aug. 20 - 6 p.m.

More intermittent closures on Sterling Highway as crews battle fire

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Aug. 20 - 4:46 p.m.

Sterling Highway open, pilot cars escorting traffic 

The Alaska Division of Forestry posted an online update about traffic conditions along the Sterling Highway Tuesday evening.

Sterling Highway is open. Pilot cars may be used to escorting traffic in alternating directions with flaggers at either end of the affected area between MP53 and MP75. Alaska State Troopers will be patrolling the area and monitoring traffic. Motorists are advised to proceed cautiously through the affected area, drive with their lights on and watch for firefighting personnel working in the area. If conditions change, travel could be halted again.

According to Alaska's wildland fire information website, smoke may settle along the highway in the morning. If conditions change, travel could be halted again for the safety of the public and firefighters.

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Aug. 20 - 3 p.m.

Swan Lake Fire update from current and incoming incident commanders

Incident Commanders Brentwood Reid and Evans Kuo posted an online update with the latest information on the Swan Lake Fire.

As of Tuesday afternoon, fire crews are working to put in fire lines by hand and with bulldozers. According to Reid, the fire didn't advance into the footprint of the 2015 Card Street Fire.

A larger incident management team, as well as additional fire crews and aircraft, have been assigned to the fire. The new team will assume operational control Wednesday.

Kuo said if fire conditions change and additional resources are needed, there is a plan in place to get more support in.

Watch the full briefing in the video above.

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Aug. 20 - 9:35 a.m.

Sterling Highway opens at 10 a.m.

The Alaska State Troopers say the Sterling Highway will open to one-lane traffic beginning at 10 a.m. Tuesday. Traffic will resume between mileposts 53 and 75 — not 77 as Troopers previously reported — with a pilot car escort. Troopers say there will be delays.

AST will be patrolling the area and monitoring traffic. Drivers won't be allowed to stop throughout this section of the highway. Drivers are asked to have their vehicle lights on and to keep an eye out for flaggers and firefighters.

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Aug. 19 - 10:26 p.m.

Sterling Highway closures remain, camping available in Soldotna

Both lanes of traffic are closed on the Sterling Highway between Adkins Road on milepost 77 and the intersection of Resurrection Pass Trail at milepost 53. The Department of Transportation says the closure is due to winds along the corridor and fire moving toward the highway.

Alaska State Troopers say camping is available in Soldotna at the Centennial and Swiftwater campgrounds for people who are stranded. The rodeo grounds are also open for people who have livestock or other animals.

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Aug. 19 - 6 p.m.

The latest on the Swan Lake Fire

KTVA's Cassie Schirm shares the latest updates on the Swan Lake Fire.

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Aug. 19 - 12:13 p.m.

Smoke across Southcentral

KTVA's Cassie Schirm and Jeremy LaGoo are live with the latest updates on the Swan Lake Fire and smoke in Southcentral.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

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Aug. 19 - 11:18 a.m.

Sterling Highway reopens at noon

The Division of Forestry announced that the Sterling Highway will be open beginning at 12 p.m. Monday. The Alaska State Troopers will be patrolling and monitoring the traffic. 

People are being warned that if conditions change, traffic may be reduced to escorted, one-way travel or stopped again.

 

Level one evacuation alerts are in place for Cooper Landing and Sterling neighborhoods east of Feuding Lane and east of Adkins Road. The Kenai Peninsula is asking people to be ready to leave if an evacuation is ordered.

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Aug. 18 - 9:30 p.m.

Extreme high winds push Swan Lake Fire across Sterling Highway

High winds pushed the Swan Lake Fire across the Sterling Highway on Saturday and continued gusting through the day Sunday, according to an update on AKFireInfo.com.

The Sterling Highway was closed between mile 53 and 75, due to fire activity and risk from adjacent utility infrastructure, and won't open until at least Monday. Drivers are asked to avoid the area; updates are available from 511 travel info.

New growth on the fire led to additional closures in the Chugach National Forest and the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, including: 

Closures in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge have been extended to include the entire length of Skilak Lake Road. The Russian River Ferry was closed and cleared early today. Skilak Lake Road and all adjacent recreational trails and day use areas are closed. Previous closures are still in place and include Fuller Lake Trail, Skyline Trail, the Russian River Ferry, Hidden Lake Campground, Jim’s Landing, Sportsman’s Landing, Hideout Trail, and the Kenai River Trail.

Closures in Chugach National Forest include the Russian River Campground, K’Beq Day Use Area, Barber Cabin, Russian River Falls, and the Russian Lakes Trail from the Russian River Campground south to Barber Cabin. Closures remain in place on Resurrection Pass Trail from the junction of Devil’s Pass south to the Sterling Highway. This closure includes the following public use cabins: West Swan Lake, Swan Lake, Trout, Romig, and Juneau. 

A level one evacuation notice as been issued for Cooper Landing — meaning people in the area should be ready, but is not a notice to leave.

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July 30 - 10:57 a.m.

Final update on Swan Lake Fire

As the Swan Lake Fire nears completion firefighters say it shouldn't grow in size anymore.

AK Fire Info said Tuesday this will be the last major update for the fire unless significant fire occurs. The Eastern Area Incident Management Team will be transferring control of the fire to the Alaska team. The local crew will take over Wednesday. They will continue repair work and monitoring the wildfire for any changes.

Managers expect the weather to stay dry for the Kenai Peninsula into the beginning of August. AK Fire Info and fire crews say there's been no increase in fire.

More than two inches of rain fell over the fire this past week, saturating the upper layers on the forest floor. The deepest layers remain dry, but would have to dry out before any new fire activity starts. The East Area team says there is heat within the fire perimeter and some areas could smolder for the foreseeable future.

Crews will be monitoring by air to make sure the fire poses no danger to cabins, the Sterling Highway or other structures. A temporary flight restriction has been lifted as of Monday, AK Fire Info said.

A break in the weather let firefighters use helicopters to remove pumps, hoses, sprinklers and other equipment from remote places in and around the fire.

Crews finished most of their suppression and repair work including chipping brush piles in addition to fixing containment lines. All work should be finished over the next few days. The fire has not grown in acres since July 22, according to AK Fire Info.

Anyone driving in the area should still watch for construction zones and smoke along the Sterling Highway. To ensure the safety and protection of fire crews, AK Fire Info asks drivers to not stop along the highway shoulder. Everyone should use headlights and check the Alaska Department of Transportation for the latest road conditions.

Wildfires happen every year in the Kenai Forest, but the area where Swan Lake Fire is burning hasn't seen fire since 1947. Fire managers say these types of natural fires help reduces large-scale fire impacts in the future and help grow Alaska's wildlife habitat.

___

July 22 - 1:37 p.m.

No significant fire growth, dry and hot weather conditions remain

Fire managers say the Swan Lake Fire has not grown substantially in the last three days. 

"Crews removed hoses and water pumps where there was a reduced threat of the fire compromising the containment line," the incident management team wrote.

Firefighters are continuing to monitor hot-spots on the air and ground as dry and hot weather conditions remain.

In a call to the incident management team, a team member said they will no longer monitor containment of the fire. Since sections of the fire have expanded to inaccessible parts of the wilderness, the team member said they would not be able to collect accurate containment information. However, they will continue to report on the percentage of work completed, which are called objectives, to help control the fire.

Smoke will still be seen in Cooper Landing along the Sterling Highway corridor. Depending on wind direction, smoke may travel further into Cooper Landing or north to Anchorage.

 ___

July 21 - 11:49 a.m.

102,027 acres, 72% objectives completed

Firefighters have completed 72% of the work needed to control the fire. An update from the Eastern Area incident management team said the fire has decreased by 185 acres. Fire managers say smoke will be seen in Cooper Landing along the Sterling Highway corridor. Smoke updates can be found on UAFSMOKE.

Helicopters are active in the southeast corner of the fire along the highway near Upper Jean Lake. Alaska State Troopers and the law enforcement officers with U.S. Fish and Wildlife are monitoring visibility impacts from smoke and fog on Sterling and Seward Highways. Drivers are asked to use headlights. A temporary flight restriction, which includes the use of drones, remains on the west side of the Chugach National Forest and Sterling Highway corridor.

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July 16 - 4:02 p.m.

No significant growth, 50% contained

According to the latest update from the incident information system, the Swan Lake Fire is now 50% contained after showing no significant growth the past two days.

As of Tuesday, the fire is mapped at 100,812 acres — growing just under 300 acres since Sunday. On Monday, "minimal fire spread was observed with limited interior smoldering and isolated torching," according to an update from the incident management team forwarded by the Seward city clerk.

"Firefighters will continue working on the east flank of the fire," the update says. "The Chickaloon, Thurman, and Mystery Creek drainages are expected to have little growth potential in the next 48 hours. Crews are utilizing natural features and existing trails as fire lines to establish control lines to curb eastward fire spread."

These improvements are expected to reduce the chance of the fire spreading in the future.

"The west flank of the fire has been kept in check by a system of wetlands and control lines," the update says. "Mop up efforts remain a challenge as extremely dry fuels are very susceptible to ignition."

Cooper Landing could see smoke in the area throughout Tuesday evening and sections of the Sterling Highway could see smoke overnight. Those traveling in the area should watch for construction zones and smoke.


 ___

July 15 - 12:26 p.m.

Over 100,000 acres, close to 450 personnel and 25% contained

The latest numbers from the scene of the Swan Lake Fire are in. As of Sunday, July 14, the fire is mapped at 100,517 acres with 441 personnel working on containing the blaze, which is 25% contained.

"Fire behavior was minimal yesterday. The east flank of the fire continues to smolder in the Chickaloon, Thurman, and Mystery creek drainages with minimal growth potential in the next 72 hours," an update from the Seward city clerk's office said Monday. "Crews are utilizing existing trails as direct firelines and natural features to establish control lines to check eastward fire spread. These improvements will reduce the chance of fire spread in the future, resulting in more fire resilient landscapes and communities. The west flank of the fire has been kept in check by a system of marshy areas and control lines. Mop up efforts remain a challenge as extremely dry fuels are very susceptible to ignition."

Firefighters are still on patrol along the Sterling Highway, while Alaska State Troopers and U.S. Fish and Wildlife enforcement officers are monitoring for visibility impacts due to smoke and fog on Sterling and Seward highways.

"Fire progression has been assessed in areas of concern and long term strategic objectives have been met and are assessed daily. Fire resources will also support initial attack efforts as requested by local fire fighting units. Recreation structures to the north and northwest have firefighting personnel and structure protection efforts in place," the update said.

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July 11 - 6 p.m.

Swan Lake Fire continues growing, smoke lessens around Sterling

The Swan Lake Fire started from a lightning strike on June 5. Since then, it has grown to be the largest fire on the Kenai Peninsula. Scroll through and follow along as we get the latest updates from fire officials working the scene.

The Swan Lake Fire is responsible for smoke throughout Southcentral. Residents in the surrounding area said they are relieved to have a recent reprieve from the heavy smoke that's been in the air since lightning started the fire June 5.

Firefighters credit the improvement to a change in wind direction earlier this week.

"With that came a southwest wind, and that's really pushed the smoke more inland, away from the communities around Sterling, and Cooper Landing, and it's really helped us get an improvement in our air quality," said Jonathan Ashford, a public information officer for the incident.

Ashford is among the approximately 350 personnel from Alaska and the Lower 48 who continue to battle the blaze that has now burned just over 100,000 acres of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. According to an online incident database, the focus is now on the east and southeast sides of the fire.

"Southeast corner has been an area where we've put in a lot of aerial work, helicopter drops using, I think they're up to almost 200,000 gallons of water, have been dropped on that southeast corner," said Ashford. "There's steep terrain in that area, we're not really able to put heavy equipment or a lot of personnel on the ground."

Heavy smoke can still be found several miles east of Sterling. Firefighters say there's a good reason why they have continued to let the fire burn in some areas.

"Parts of the refuge haven't seen fire significantly in about 82 years. That allows a lot of build up of fuels, a lot of mature trees that choke out other species," Ashford said. "Getting some fire in there clears that out, opens it up, and allows a much healthier forest, and a better environment for the animals in there, and for folks trying to recreate through the refuge."

He said it was uncomfortable, but necessary to keep the area from having future fires year after year.

Smoke from the fire could return to the Anchorage area if winds switch direction. An air quality advisory for Southcentral remains in effect through Saturday.

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July 9 - 1:35 p.m.

Firefighters set up remote camps to monitor fire

Firefighters working on the Swan Lake Fire have set up spike camps in safe, remote areas not easily accessible by road or trail to monitor the flames and respond quickly to critical areas.

"As the fire activity shifts over the landscape, the crews move their spike camps," the latest update from AK Fire Info reads. "Food, water, and other supplies are often delivered by helicopter. This dynamic system allows fire personnel to cover large sections of a fire safely and efficiently."

According to the update, the fire burned actively on Monday, "continuing to consume unseasonably dry fuels."

 

Lolo National Forest Interagency Hotshot crew on the Swan Lake Fire above Sterling Highway (Photo: AK Fire Info)

 "On the north and east edges, the fire continued to burn through stands of spruce," the update reads. "Alternately, where the fire reached alpine vegetation or patches of aspen and other hardwoods, fire growth slowed. On the south and west flanks, the fire remained within established fire lines and in marshy areas to the east of the East Fork of Moose River."

Historic cabins to the north and east of the fire are being evaluated by fire officials. AK Fire Info says protective measures are being taken around the cabins, including reducing flammable vegetation and setting up sprinklers.

"A change in the weather is expected to reach the Kenai Peninsula, starting later today," the update reads. "The north winds that have been pushing smoke from the Swan Lake Fire into Cooper Landing and Seward are expected to shift to coming out of the southwest."

AK Fire Info says the weather should reduce the impacts of smoke in those communities and the Sterling Highway.

Fire officials will be watching for storms throughout the day, as AK Fire Info says there is a slight chance for thunderstorms over the Kenai Mountains. They will be on the lookout for lightning and erratic winds.

"The chance of significant rainfall is low for the rest of this week, but rising humidity should make fine fuels like grasses and twigs harder to burn," the update reads.

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July 8 - 1:10 p.m.

Fire growth slows, continues burning at higher elevations

The latest update from AK Fire Info says the Swan Lake Fire has started to slow its growth despite another hot and dry weekend. The fire continues to burn east at higher elevations.

"The east flank of the fire continues to move toward higher elevations and into the Mystery Creek, Thurman Creek, and Chickaloon River drainages," the update reads. "Fire movement through the black spruce is being influenced by topography and wind direction. Within the drainages and at higher elevations, tundra and alpine vegetation rarely support the rapid fire spread that is common in spruce stands."

July 8 Swan Lake Fire Public Information Map (Photo: AK Fire Info)

Fire crews are looking at public recreation cabins along the Resurrection Pass Trail for possible point protection should the fire expand in that direction. Part of the trail has been closed by the Chugach National Forest.

"Efforts to hold the fire along the ENSTAR pipeline and the Chickaloon River continue to be successful on the north end of the fire," the update reads. "The western edge of the fire continues to smolder along marshy areas. Mop up continues along the southwest corner. In many areas, burn intensity has been variable, resulting in a mosaic burn pattern."

July 8 Swan Lake Fire Progression Map (Photo: AK Fire Info)

AK Fire Info says mop up operations are continuing to extingush areas of heat on the southern edge of the fire. Firefighters are also working on full containment along the Sterling Highway.

"This will strengthen the large fuel break created by burnout operations, which is designed to prevent future fires from reaching the highway and the community of Sterling," the update reads.

Another public meeting is being held on Wednesday, July 10 at 6 p.m. at the Cooper Landing Elementary School.

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July 7 - 11:11 a.m.

Smoke advisory still in effect for Southcentral

The Department of Environmental Conservation, Division of Air Quality issued an air quality advisory for July 5 through July 8.

The department said smoke is expected to migrate into the Anchorage Bowl and the Mat-Su late evenings and early mornings, with afternoon winds lifting the smoke. The air quality will vary between good and unhealthy, according to the advisory.

Air quality is monitored in real-time by DEC and current readings can be found online.

 

(Source: Division of Air Quality)

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July 6 - 6:20 p.m.

Forest Service closes parts of Chugach National Forest for public health and safety

The USDA Forest Service ordered special area closures Saturday for the Chugach National Forest due to the Swan Lake Fire.

According to a press release, fire danger remains high in the forest on the Glacier and Seward Ranger districts and the closures were ordered because of concern for public health and safety. 

 Area closures include:

  • All national forest system (NFS) lands west of Resurrection Pass Trail, from the Resurrection Creek gold panning area to Devils Pass trail
  • All NFS lands south of Devils Pass Trail west of Seward Highway and north of Sterling Highway

Exceptions:

  • Gull Rock Trail
  • Resurrection Creek gold panning area
  • Porcupine campground

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July 6 - 1:30 p.m.

Fuller Lakes Trail closed

In a July 6 update, fire personnel say sustained hot temperatures continue to fuel the blaze which is now burning at 92,657 acres. It's still moving along the Sterling Highway near the Skyline Trail. 

Officials have closed the Fuller Lakes Trail near Cooper Landing while crews determine whether they can use the area for future operations if the fire continues to spread to the east.

"Mop up efforts along the southern edge are labor intensive as layers of duff continue to dry out allowing areas to re-burn," the update reads. Helicopters also continue to drop water on the southeast side.

A map posted with the update shows how the fire has progressed since early June.

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July 4 - 4:30 p.m.

Fire crews mopping up blaze, but hot weather stokes flames

Officials for the Swan Lake Fire stated in a July 4 update that hot, dry weather lead to increased fire activity for the 84,492-acre fire burning on the Kenai Peninsula. Fire management stated they expected temperatures to remain in the low 90s "for the foreseeable future."

A report from Incident Commander Brian Gales listed the fire as 14% contained as 492 personnel continue to combat the fire. Multiple units are monitoring smoke and three air quality monitors are being set up in Cooper Landing, Seward and Sterling. The highway remains open but firefighters remain working in the area and drivers are asked to use caution.

Residents are encouraged to take measures to ensure their homes and properties have defensible space. 

"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. Long term, it will reduce the fire risk to communities, improve habitat and create diversity," fire officials wrote.

Campfires are restricted to enclosed fire rings and grates within designated campsites and cabins in the area.

The temporary flight restriction in the area has expanded to include the western portion of the Chugach National Forest and still includes the Sterling Highway corridor. Current flight restrictions can be located on the Federal Aviation Administration's website.

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July 4 - noon

Some campgrounds near Swan Lake Fire reopening

Several areas previously under a closure notice for the Swan Lake Fire have been reopened, according to an update from public information officers. The update, posted to AK Fire Info, stated there are still multiple areas that remain closed as of noon on July 4.

The following facilities remain closed:

Campgrounds: Watson Lake, Jean Lake, Petersen Lake, and Kelly Lake

Cabins: Kelly Lake Cabin, Trapper Joe Cabin, Big Indian Cabin

Lakes and Rivers: East Fork Moose River, Watson Lake, Petersen Lake, Kelly Lake, Jean Lake, and Bottenintin Lake

Trails: Skyline Trail, Seven Lakes Trail (except for the portion from Engineer Lake to Engineer Lake Cabin)

Roads: Mystery Creek Road

The full modified order is available online and a map of the closures is posted. 

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July 2 - 9:28 a.m.

AFD cancels fireworks shows for Fourth of July

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July 1 - 6 p.m.

Fireworks bans and cancellations

The Swan Lake Fire is only one of over 100 active fires burning throughout Alaska. High fire danger around the state has caused a growing number of fire restrictions and fireworks bans across the state. For a list of where you can celebrate the upcoming holiday, read our latest story.

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July 1 - 5:22 p.m.

Emergency fire order issued over Chugach National Forest, Kenai Peninsula

An emergency fire order setting fire restrictions on portions of the Chugach National Forest has been issued for the Kenai Peninsula area.

According to a Monday release from the U.S. Forest Service, the fire restrictions apply to "building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire, campfire or stove fire including charcoal on the Chugach National Forest."

This excludes the Nellie Juan/College Fiord Wilderness Study area and the Cordova Ranger District. It is in effect starting Monday and will end once fire conditions allow.

"Exceptions to the emergency order are: building, maintaining, attending, or using a fire in constructed, permanent firepits or fire grates within identified developed recreation sites," the release says. "The use of portable stoves, lanterns using gas, jellied petroleum, pressurized liquid fuel or a fully enclosed (sheepherder type) stove with a ¼” spark arrester type screen are permitted."

The following are the identified developed recreation sites affected by the order:

Glacier Ranger District

  • Bertha Campground
  • Williwaw Campground
  • Black Bear Campground
  • Granite Creek Campground
  • Public Recreation Cabins

Seward Ranger District

  • Porcupine Campground
  • Coeur D'Alene Campground
  • Tenderfoot Campground
  • Trail River Campground
  • Primrose Campground
  • Ptarmigan Campground
  • Quartz Creek Campground
  • Crescent Creek Campground
  • Copper Creek Campground
  • Russian River Campground
  • Public Recreation Cabins

Exceptions also include:

  1. Persons with a permit specifically authorizing the otherwise prohibited act or omission.
  2. Any Federal, State or Local Law Enforcement Officer or member of an organized rescue or fire fighting force in the performance of an official duty.

The release says those who violate the order could face hefty fines, imprisonment or both.

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July 1 - 3:29 p.m.

Gov. Mike Dunleavy visits Swan Lake Fire scene

Gov. Mike Dunleavy traveled to the Kenai Peninsula on Monday to "see first hand the impacts the 70,000+ acre wildfire is causing."

In a Facebook post, Dunleavy thanks the firefighters working to contain the fire. See the photos:

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July 1 - 9:46 a.m.

Swan Lake Fire 70,330 acres, 15% contained

KTVA Weather Team provides an update showing improved air quality in Anchorage as the Swan Lake Fire continues to grow. High fire danger remains.

 
User: KTVA 11 Weather To: link

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June 30 - 10:39 p.m.

Swan Lake Fire photos show clouds of smoke

These photos of the Swan Lake Fire were taken by Rick Boots Sunday night. They show smoke rising from the fire, visible from the roadway.

Photo: Rick Boots

 

Photo: Rick Boots

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June 30 - 6:04 p.m.

Firefighters battle through long hours, little sleep to contain Swan Lake Fire

Firefighters from Soldotna-based Yukon Fire Crew are helping to contain the Swan Lake Fire near Sterling.

Crews work 16-hour shifts, 14 days straight which can be challenging. Lacy says his crew initially started in a wet area, and they had a difficult time keeping their feet dry as they worked through the fire.

The long days are also tiring and sleep becomes a luxury. The firefighters often try to sleep where they can.

"Somewhere off the fire line, we usually have a place where you can set up camp, that's how we've been doing it here since we've been here," Lacy said.

Members of the Yukon Fire Crew are among the 487 people working to contain the Swan Lake Fire.

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June 30 - 2:45 p.m.

Swan Lake Fire now 68,060 acres, first-ever dense smoke advisory for Anchorage

The Swan Lake Fire now sits at 68,060 acres and is 17% contained, according to incident management. Crews are still working to secure the fire's south perimeter, north of the Sterling Highway to reduce the threat to infrastructure. While burnout operations have been done along the control line, additional fires are possible between the main fire and Sterling Highway due to fuels still being available. Night shifts will continue to patrol the lines and evaluate smoke issues along the highway, incident management said.

 
User: KTVA 11 Weather To: link

The KTVA weather team says high pressure in control of our weather has shifted slightly east. This lead to an increase in southerly winds overnight Saturday into Sunday and prompted the first-ever dense smoke advisory for Anchorage. Reduced visibility and poor air quality will remain a factor through the remainder of Sunday and into early Monday.

The Alaska Interagency Coordination Center (AICC) reported hot conditions have tested the fire lines, but crews have done an excellent job and they continue to hold. Today will be another test with hot and dry conditions sticking around. They said traffic moved well on Saturday along the Sterling Highway, with only minor delays due to restarted road construction and some morning fog from a marine layer.

Coastal areas should see clearer skies in the coming days as a cold front pushes through and helps disperse the smoke into Monday. The fire has burned in such a way that it will provide for a more fire resilient landscape in the future, according to AICC.

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June 29 - 6:30 p.m.

Smoke lingering through the weekend

Saturday not only marked a new record for Anchorage, but also the second day in a row when temperatures climbed above 80 degrees. The recent warm stretch continues to impact us, as a rather impressive ridge remains locked in place across the state. While the ridge is expected to push off to the east through the night that will mean "cooler" temperatures for us Sunday, but also the return to southerly flow. This isn't good news for us, as the southerly winds will pull in more smoke from the Kenai and lead to growing air quality concerns once more.

 
User: KTVA 11 Weather To: link

Because the smoke will be thick at times due to an inversion that has set up each night, the first-ever Dense Smoke Advisory has been issued for Anchorage beginning at 4 a.m. Sunday and lasting through 10 p.m. Don't be surprised to see air quality levels creep back into the unhealthy category. Even though it will be slightly cooler through the day, highs in the upper 70s will once more yield more records for a large portion of Southcentral.

The ridge although shifting to the east for now, will build back in and strengthen in the coming days. This will mean the return to hot conditions as we head into next week, with some smoky weather sticking around through at least Monday. There are signs pointing to smoke filtering out of the Anchorage Bowl as we head into the middle of next week, but for the time being the mountains will continue to be obscured and the smoke will cause air quality issues.

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June 28 - 9:35 p.m.

The latest updates from the scene of the fire

Watch for the latest updates on the Swan Lake Fire as of Friday, June 28, from reporters on the scene.

 ___

June 28 - 8:32 p.m.

Smoke from the Swan Lake Fire drifts north

Smoke from the Swan Lake Fire drifted north overnight and with light winds and a "sinking" atmosphere, the smoke was trapped with nowhere to go. This brought the Air Quality in Anchorage to unhealthy levels.

 
User: Melissa Frey To: link

An air quality advisory is in effect in Anchorage through Sunday. The air quality sat an unhealthy level most of Friday. It's recommended to avoid heavy outdoor exertion, meaning you shouldn't exercise outside. If you're more sensitive to the smoke, it's recommended to stay inside as much as possible.

There is also a dense smoke advisory in place for the Sterling Highway Corridor where the smoke, at times, is causing the visibility to drop to near zero. It's recommended to reduce speed and keep your headlights on and drive cautiously.

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June 28 - 6:38 p.m.

Video shows smoky sunrise over Anchorage

KTVA 11's Nick Swann shot this timelapse video from the Rabbit Creek Road overpass around 6:15 a.m. on Friday. It shows the sun rising in this midst of the smoke from the Swan Lake Fire.

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June 28 - 4:46 p.m.

Anchorage burn ban takes effect due to high fire danger

The Anchorage Fire Department is implementing a burn ban for the Municipality of Anchorage due to elevated fire danger levels.

The ban began Friday afternoon and will remain in effect until fire conditions change. According to an AFD release, the ban "is based on the determination that the fire danger within the Municipality is Very High-Extreme."

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June 28 - 2:25 p.m.

Potential Alaska wildfire victims can file insurance claims

The Alaska Division of Insurance wants to help anyone affected by the Swan Lake Fire or other wildfires by filing insurance claims.

"With the devastation wildfire season brings, the division stands ready to assist consumers with filing and settling insurance claims related to the Swan Lake and other fires," said Director Lori Wing-Heier in a release from the commissioner's office.

The division wants Alaskans who suffer wildfire-related losses to file a claim with their local agent about getting a settlement for damages incurred by wildfires.

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June 28 - 12:16 p.m.

Anchorage air quality reaches unhealthy levels from wildfire smoke

The air quality index in Anchorage climbed to 159 Friday at noon, a level considered unhealthy for everyone and dangerous enough to cause more serious health effects in sensitive groups of people.

Particulates in the atmosphere from the growing wildfire settled over Anchorage in a thick cloud of smoke early Friday morning to light wind and a dominating ridge of high pressure.

Air quality is constantly changing. It is affected by everything from smoke to wind and rain, even pollution. In the presence of a wildfire, wind often carries the smoke away from the fire itself — exactly what happened with the Swan Lake Fire. Smoke from the fire traveled some 50 miles to settle in over Anchorage. Light wind and high pressure dominating the region allowed the atmospheric particulates in the smoke to settle from the atmosphere down to the surface overnight.

Daytime heating will help bring relief from the unhealthy air. As the sun heats the ground, temperature differentials will cause wind to pick up throughout the day. Increased wind will blow some of the smoke out of the Anchorage bowl. This trend is expected in a weather pattern similar to what we are currently seeing.

Poor air quality in the morning improving through the day as winds move the unhealthy particles from low-lying areas. You can see this in the animation below of air quality Thursday and Friday in Anchorage.

(Source: airnow.gov)

Unfortunately, there is no immediate change in the forecast. The same warm, dry weather pattern that favors additional fire growth also favors unhealthy air. Without wind or rain, the smoke will settle in areas around the fire up to 100 miles away. That means unhealthy air quality is likely as well as additional growth of the Swan Lake Fire.

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June 28 - 9:52 a.m.

Smoke advisories for interior Kenai Peninsula issues, air quality health advisory issued for Anchorage

A dense smoke advisory is in effect until 1 a.m. Sunday for the interior Kenai Peninsula, the National Weather Service said Friday. Visibilities could be reduced to one-quarter mile or less. According to the KTVA weather team visibility may improve through the afternoon and in the evening as wind will move smoke away from the fire. 

The KTVA weather team says smoke from the Swan Lake Fire has drifted northwest.  Light wind allowed the smoke to settle over Anchorage, dropping air quality in town. Wind will pick up during the day, moving some of the smoke out of town and improving air quality in the afternoon and evening. 

The Anchorage Health Department issued an air quality health advisory for June 28 through June 30. The current air quality index reading is 152. AHD said the smoke drifting into Anchorage has reached a concentration level considered to be unhealthy for the general population.

The department says the poor air quality may have greater adverse effects on children, the elderly and those who have heart or lung issues. People who are sensitive to air pollution are advised to stay inside when air quality levels are considered unhealthy for sensitive groups, which are AQI values exceeding 100.

Real-time air quality updates are available from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. The Anchorage air quality forecast can be obtained by calling the air quality hotline at 343-4899 or by visiting the Anchorage Air Quality program website.

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June 27 - 11:02 p.m.

The Swan Lake Fire is impacting air quality, traffic and local businesses

 

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

___

June 27 - 11:02 p.m.

Swan Lake Fire reaches over 56,000 acres

The Swan Lake Fire has grown to more than 56,000 acres.

According to the Division of Forestry, the fire is at 56,200 acres.

Editor’s note: An earlier update from the Kenai Peninsula Borough states the fire is more than 59,000 acres. The agencies are reporting conflicting information.

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June 27 - 8:05 p.m.

Swan Lake Fire reaches over 59,000 acres

The latest Swan Lake Fire update from the Kenai Peninsula Borough states the fire is now up to 59,100 acres. The increase in size is mostly due to the burnout operation.

"Mop up along the highway and the western flank is continuing to ensure no heat remains," the update reads. "People will continue to see smoke as the islands of fuel away from the highway continue to be consumed and there may be smoke on the Sterling Highway until the inversion lifts mid morning."

KPB officials say that with less fuel out front of the fire on at least three flanks, the public should expect to see less smoke in the coming days. But, since some of the perimeter is not planned for containment, the fire is expected to continue burning east in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

"Both lanes of the Sterling Highway remain open with a short zone (MP 67 to 75) slowed to 35 mph for the safety of drivers and firefighters," the update reads. "Please use headlights."

According to fire officials on scene, over 500 fire personnel are tackling the fire from all sides. On the ground, they are focusing on the control lines, mop up and cold trailing. From the air, they are using a roughly 300-gallon bucket attached to a helicopter to capture water from the nearby Watson Lake, used to help suppress the fire through aerial firefighting.

Crews are said to be working 16-hour shifts, public information officer for the incident management team Bud Sexton said.

The unseasonably warm conditions and a recent dry spell has led to even more fuel for the fire. Although it has been an inconvenience for those in the area, Sexton says the fire is actually beneficial to the ecosystem. Not only will it replenish the nutrients in the forest floor, but it will provide a habitat for many animals. Additionally, the burn scar will protect the city of Sterling for many years, as it will take the forest at least 70 years to recover.

Early Thursday night the National Weather Service launched a weather balloon at the incident command center. Ben Bartos, an incident meteorologist with NWS Anchorage, said the weather balloon is being used to collect data to help in firefighting efforts and understanding where the smoke will drift.

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June 27 - 7:13 p.m.

Viewers capture video along Sterling Highway

One of our viewers, Jim Cooper, captured this video of smoke billowing from the Swan Lake Fire. It's only one of the many images coming in from people witnessing the action along the Sterling Highway.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

In South Anchorage, smoke has been filling the sky. KTVA's Joe Vigil captured these sunset photos Wednesday night.

If you have pictures or video to share of the fire, you can upload it on our website or use #ShareIt11 on social media.

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June 27 - 7 p.m.

With fire danger high, will there be fireworks on the Fourth of July?

Anchorage Fire Chief Jodie Hettrick is worried about the high fire danger in Anchorage. So much so, that if the forecast for dry, hot conditions doesn't change, the department may decide to cancel Independence Day fireworks shows in Anchorage and Eagle River.

In Anchorage, Hettrick said she is monitoring the situation day-by-day, but wanted to remind people that fireworks are illegal within the municipality.

"You can't use them in your backyard, you can't use them in your cul-de-sac. No fireworks are allowed within the municipality because of the fire danger," she said.

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June 27 - 6:26 p.m.

What to do if smoke from the Swan Lake fire is bothering you

Smoke from the Swan Lake fire continues to drift into Anchorage. On Thursday the city's air quality level was mostly moderate, but municipal health nurse Meghan McFarland said that doesn't mean people shouldn't take precautions.

McFarland said most people don't have to eliminate their outdoor activities but they may want to limit their time outdoors when the smoke is thick. She said the risk is greatest to people with respiratory problems and also young children whose lungs are still developing.

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June 27 - 5:28 p.m.

Fire danger suspends fireworks sales and use throughout the state

Multiple agencies have implemented an immediate suspension of the sale and use of fireworks across the state due to fire danger, the Department of Public Safety said in a press release Thursday evening.

The suspension remains in effect until further notice, troopers say.

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June 27 - 2:57 p.m.

Swan Lake fire grows to more than 48,000 acres

The Swan Lake fire grew to more than 48,000 acres as of Thursday morning, fire managers said.

The fire is burning just 6 miles northeast of Sterling, affecting traffic on the Sterling Highway. Smoke from the fire prompted smoke advisories for reduced visibility on the Kenai Peninsula.

An air quality advisory for Southcentral was issued Monday and is active through Friday afternoon. Hot, dry weather in the forecast keeps fire danger high across the region.

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June 27 - 12:27 p.m.

Fireworks temporarily banned in Houston due to fire danger

The Houston Fire Department announced yesterday that they are suspending the sale and use of several types of aerial fireworks because of heightened fire danger in the area.

The temporary ban was posted to HFD's Facebook page Wednesday evening. It is in effect until further notice.

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June 26 - 4:24 p.m.

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 is burning roughly 6 miles northeast of Sterling and is only 10% contained with an estimated containment date on August 31.

Crews conducted a strategic fire operation Tuesday to establish a control line and draw the fire away from the Sterling Highway. This allows 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.

 
User: KTVA 11 News To: link

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. The fuels will likely continue to become drier as high pressure settles into the region.

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.

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June 24 - 3:12 p.m.

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.

Photo of the Swan Lake Fire on Friday, June 14

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.

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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June 23 - 10:49 p.m.

Travel advisory in effect as Swan Lake fire grows to more than 25,000 acres

According to a fire update Sunday, the Swan Lake fire has grown to 25,161 acres with winds pushing the fire toward the east of Mystery Creek Road and southeast of Sterling.

"As the winds shifted throughout the afternoon, a few spot fires occurred over the control lines and were contained by ground resources working with helicopters dropping water," fire managers wrote. "The overall strategy is to slow fire progression on the eastern flank and push it towards the mountains to the east as the fire burns in thick black spruce stands that have not burned since the last wildfire in 1947."

(Courtesy Alaska Division of Forestry)

Swan Lake fire managers issued a travel advisory for Sterling Highway, notifying motorists of reduced visibility from smoke and travel delays between milepost 58 and milepost 75.5.

Fire managers have also expanded the temporary flight restriction over the fire area, extending it to the Sterling Highway corridor to make way for water-dropping aircraft called "scoopers." The aircraft arrived from Canada on Sunday and will gather water from Skilak Lake and Hidden Lake.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge announced it has closed to support fire operations along the Sterling Highway, according to a Facebook post from refuge managers.

As of Sunday, the following recreation areas are closed to public access:

•     Lake
•     Watson Lake Campground
•     Egumen Lake Trail
•     Petersen Lake Campground
•     Kelly Campground
•     Seven Lakes Trail
•     Skyline Trail
•     Jean Lake Campground

 

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June 20 - 5:51 p.m.

Swan Lake fire grows, crews from Lower 48 set to arrive

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

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

The fire's growth was mainly on the southern and eastern perimeter toward the community of Sterling. 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.

Five hotshot crews from the Lower 48 were scheduled to arrive Thursday and will focus on holding the firelines in the southwest while searching for spot fires that could encourage new fire growth.

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June 16 - 3:32 p.m.

Swan Lake Fire sees minimal growth due to cool, wet conditions

The largest fire on the Kenai only saw an increase of about 200 acres overnight thanks to the cooler and wetter weather across Southcentral. The fire is now approaching 13,000 acres, the Alaska Division of Forestry said Sunday.

Fire officials said the fire, which started naturally, could restart a fire in an area that hasn't seen activity in nearly 75 years. While crews are currently working to manage the fire, the increase in activity isn't necessarily bad. The current fire will help reduce the risk of future fires in the area, by removing the fuel for the fires.

A map showing the perimeter of the swan Lake Fire as of Saturday night, June 15, 2019.

Officials say once the fire sweeps through the area, a burn scar will be evident and will affect new fires for years by slowing their progress and giving firefighters more time to respond.

Although the cooler weather has gripped Southcentral this weekend, drier and warmer conditions will return to the region through this week. With the warmer weather on the way, firefighters are still taking measures by continuing to build and fortify lines along with the fire.

In addition to the Swan Lake Fire, 7 other fires across the state are currently being staffed, with dozens more being monitored. According to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, there are 58 fires across the state which is burning over 100,000 acres of land.

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June 6 - 3:09 p.m.

Rash of lightning strikes sparks nearly a dozen wildfires

Thunderstorm activity has been on the increase across Alaska this week, prompting severe thunderstorm warnings and numerous wildfires around the state.

In just a span of two days, nearly 8,000 lightning strikes were detected across the state, which were primarily confined to southwest Alaska and the Kenai Peninsula. It's these areas that according to the Alaska Division of Forestry, saw 11 new wildfires spark from the afternoon thunderstorms. Three of those fires occurred Tuesday in southwest Alaska, with suppression efforts underway for two smaller fires near McGrath. The largest, which is a 150-acre fire near Mt. Hurst, is currently not threatening anything and has been placed in monitor status.

 Numerous wildfires are also occurring across the Kenai Peninsula, thanks to numerous thunderstorms that affected Southcentral Wednesday afternoon. Fire officials say that there are currently 50 firefighters responding to the largest fire on the Kenai known as the Tustumena Lake Fire. The fire which is burning in the footprint of the 2007 Caribou Hills fire, increased from 45 to 121 acres Wednesday night with suppression efforts currently underway.

The Alaska Division of Forestry says that in addition to those fires, at least 4 others sparked in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, with at least three more fires reported near McGrath. While fire managers are currently assessing if any action should be taken, most of them are in a remote area and do not pose a threat at this time.

Lightning is a natural source of wildfires and causes the majority of large fires across the world. With more thunderstorms in the forecast through the end of this week, its likely that fire managers will detect more wildfires started by lightning.

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