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.


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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.

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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

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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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