A map of the Swan Lake Fire as of Sept. 3, 2019. (Courtesy Great Basin Incident Management Team)

A map of the Swan Lake Fire as of Sept. 3, 2019. (Courtesy Great Basin Incident Management Team)

Continued rains lead to scaling back of evacuation statuses for Cooper Landing and Sterling

Normal highway operations have resumed without pilot cars

Evacuation statuses in Cooper Landing and Sterling have been scaled back and normal highway operations have resumed after another night of rain hit the Swan Lake Fire.

As of 7 a.m. Tuesday morning, the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management in coordination with the Great Basin Incident Management Team have changed the alert levels for the areas near the Swan Lake Fire. The community of Cooper Landing is now at level 1 “READY” status instead of the level 2 “SET” status, and the Sterling neighborhoods east of Feuding Lane and east of Adkins Road are no longer in “READY” status. The fire showed no growth Monday night, and the latest mapping still has it at 162,179 acres.

On Monday night, the area of the Swan Lake Fire received another 1/5 to 1/2-inch of rain. Intermittent rain is possible for the rest of the week, and significant precipitation is likely to occur this weekend.

Season-ending precipitation has still not hit the area of the Swan Lake Fire, but light precipitation is forecast through mid-September, and humidity has returned to relatively normal levels. These changes along with cooler temperatures are expected to mitigate further fire activity. Several inches of rain across the Swan Lake Fire are still needed before fire managers identify the blaze as “contained.”

Normal operations for the Sterling Highway have resumed without pilot cars. Construction along the highway has also resumed, so pilot cars may be present in areas of construction.

Motorists on the Sterling Highway are advised to use caution while driving, as fire-weakened trees still present a hazard. Motorists should drive with headlights on at all times and be aware of fire vehicles and personnel in the area. Skilak Lake Road remains closed.

Community meetings will be held at the Sterling Community Center and the Cooper Landing School at 6 p.m. tonight. The Cooper Landing meeting will be broadcast live at the KPB Alerts Facebook Page.

While Cooper Landing is no longer in “SET” status, firefighters will continue to work on increasing defensible space around structures in the community. Firefighters are also improving the control lines on the Fuller Lake Trail north of the highway, and hand crews and mechanized equipment are working on both sides of Juneau Creek.

Operations Chief Jeff Surber said in a live update Tuesday morning that crews in Cooper Landing are running suppression simulations when they have free time. These drills simulate actual fire suppression activity and are utilized so that crews are well-practiced in the proper techniques should the fire begin spreading into Cooper Landing.

The southwest perimeter of the fire, known as Division Charlie, continues to hold with the containment lines in place. Crews in Division Charlie are focused today on mopping up hot spots near the south end of the Lower Skilak Campground, and the northern part of the line is considered contained but is still being actively monitored.

Just east of that area, in Division Echo, crews will be traveling by boat from the Upper Skilak Campground to suppress fire activity that is heading south towards the Doroshin Bay Cabin.

Heading further east, crews in Division Kilo continue to cross the Kenai River and hike into the Surprise Creek Trail to address fire activity near Bear Mountain. Yesterday helicopters performed water drops in the areas of higher elevation, and much of that control line has been plumbed with hoses.

Crews in Division Lima north of Sterling are continuing to hike into the Resurrection Pass Trail to address the portions of the fire that are south of the containment line. Crews in that area are able to attack the fire’s edge directly with the assistance of aerial operations thanks to clear skies.

Air quality is expected to be good across the peninsula for the next several days. Light smoke may be visible on the western part of the peninsula near the Swan Lake Fire, but this is not expected to affect air quality.

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