Firefighters continued to battle the human-caused Card Street fire in Sterling, estimated to be at 2,000 acres, Tuesday evening.
Crews of nearly 100 firefighters constructed fire breaks, dumped water from the Kenai River from planes and helicopters and retardant from tankers on the flames throughout the day.
An estimated 200 structures are still threatened. The Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management has reported the fire has consumed at least 10 primary and secondary structures.
Kenai Keys Road residents were ordered to evacuate twice during the day, due to northerly winds pushing the fire toward the subdivision in the morning and a flare-up that brought the fire within a mile of the subdivision around 5 p.m., the Alaska Division of Forestry reported.
Crews focused on keeping the fire out of the Kenai Keys area, south of the Sterling Highway and west of Skilak Lake area.
The fire covered 1,200 acres late Monday night and early Tuesday morning.
Temperatures and wind picked up throughout Tuesday, which drove the northern flank of the fire toward Skilak Lake Road, said Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Andy Alexandrou. The west entrance of Skilak Lake Road on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge was closed to the Lower Skilak campground.
The fire also spread eastward onto refuge lands Tuesday, Alexandrou said. The only structure at risk is a U.S. Forest Service guard station, which has been plumbed and closed, he said.
The southeastern section of perimeter that stretches along Kenai Keys Road, on the Sterling side of the Kenai River, was also actively burning and advancing throughout the day.
No spot fires were found along the South side of the Kenai River, and firefighters actively patrolled the area for potential flare ups.
Crews from the Lower 48 were already on their way to assist early Tuesday.
Five Type 1 Hotshot Crews were to bring the number of trained personnel working on the fire up to 200 by Wednesday, said spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service Sam Harrel.
It is the second load of Type 1 crews to be dropped in to fight Alaska’s wildfires this season, Harrel said. The first went to the Sockeye Fire in the Susitna Valley, he said.
An Overhead team, or Type 2 crew, from the Washington Department of Natural Resources, will add another 25 to 35 pairs of hands to the effort by Thursday, Harrel said. Crews from Outside need to be briefed on firefighting in Alaska before they are sent to the fire line, he said.
The incoming units are trained in battling fires that threaten structures in addition to burning wildlands, Harrel said.
The Division of Forestry came up with a “very conservative estimate” of the cost of battling the fire Monday, Alexandrou said. The total for the first day was just under $140,500, and covered paying personnel, contracting aircraft and buying supplies, he said.
As the Type 1 and Type 2 crews will be joining the fight in the coming days, chances are that number will be considerably higher, closer to the $200,000 range per day at least, Alexandrou said.
Right now, the fire is burning up black spruce trees, tundra and marshy areas, but is a direct threat to an estimated 200 structures, Alexandrou said. Crews are mainly focused on protecting the threatened structures, he said.
Brian Gibson, who lives with his wife Dawn Braggs on Cottontree Lane, said five of his neighbors’ homes were destroyed by Tuesday.
Two focused efforts to evacuate residents from Kenai Keys Road were initiated Tuesday, Alexandrou said. Some people remained in their homes after the recommended evacuation was put in place Monday.
Evacuation orders are still in place from Card Street, west to the Kenai National Refuge at Mile 76 and south of the Sterling Highway. This area includes Lepus Avenue, Arlene Avenue, Zenith Street, Caffyn Avenue, and Anetta Street.
Feuding Lane to Sterling Highway and Kenai Keys to the Kenai River as well as Funny River subdivisions off of Salmon Run Drive to the end of Fisherman’s Road and Dow Island are also under recommended evacuation, according to the borough website.
Fire officials are asking residents to stay away from the evacuation areas. Updates will be provided local media, Rapid Notify and the borough’s Facebook page when evacuations are lifted.