Campgrounds reopen in wake of Card Street fire

The Card Street fire is still reported at 30 percent containment, and crews continued with mop-up and securing fire lines on Thursday.

Public Information Officer Sarah Foster said firefighters paid special attention to the area near the boat launch on Skilak Lake, after a successful controlled burn was initiated Wednesday.

“They’re going to continue to firm up the area where they did the controlled burn,” Foster said.

Areas of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge have reopened in the wake of the Card Street fire following the controlled burn.

Hidden Lake, Upper Skilak, Engineer Lake, Lower Ohmer, Jean Lake, Kelly Lake, Peterson Lake and Watson Lake campgrounds opened at noon on Thursday, according to a press release from the United States Department of the Interior.

Refuge Manager Andy Loranger said refuge personnel were waiting for the go-ahead from the Card Street fire incident command team to proceed with reopening the campgrounds, hiking trails and portions of some roads.

“We’ve been working with the incident command team, and really their take on the status of the fire, the level of mop-up activities and basically a comfort level based on the best available information…that it is safe,” Loranger said.

Public Information Officer Sarah Foster, with the incident command team, said Wednesday’s controlled burn successfully reduced the chance that untouched pockets of fuel will reignite.

The burn began Wednesday afternoon and targeted about 2,000 acres of unevenly burned fuel near the boat launch at Skilak Lake.

“The fire operations folks were really happy with how well it burned,” Foster said. “It was a pretty good consumption.”

Foster said the burn took care of the entire southern perimeter of the fire, and eliminated the pockets of spruce that had the potential to reignite. She said weather conditions supported the burn on Wednesday, and predicted weather conditions should help crews as they continue to contain the fire.

“We heard there’s a chance of rain today and tomorrow, so those are all good things,” Foster said. “We were able to release the hotshot crews. We’re going to continue to button this thing up.”

Foster said it will take a big rain, to ensure the Card Street fire goes out. These rains normally come later in the season.

“A season-ending event is what all firefighters look for,” Foster said.

A total of five Type 1 crews have been sent to lend their resources to other fires in Alaska, Foster said.

Foster said crew members are monitoring structures in the Kenai Keys with a hand-held infrared device which detects heat pockets.

Those who take advantage of the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area are advised that some smoke from the Card Street fire will be visible.

Loranger said the reopened areas were not near enough the Card Street fire that visitors will see any results of fire activity. He said smoke from the interior of the fire will still be visible, but is not a threat.

“At this point in time, we want folks to know the campfire restrictions are still in place,” Loranger said. “As far as anything else, it’s just (about) monitoring. There’s going to be smoke in the area; that is still going to be going on for some time.”

According to the release, “all hiking trails in the eastern portion of the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area are also now open.” Skilak Lake Road is open from its east entrance near Jim’s Landing. The road is still closed from its west entrance at Sterling Highway milepost 9.4, the release states.

If visitors notice any smoke, hot spots or fire activity they believe to be “truly threatening,” Loranger said they are encouraged to call 911.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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