This map, issued Sunday, June 18, 2017 by the Alaska Division of Forestry shows the area burned by the East Fork Fire near Sterling, Alaska. (Photo courtesy the Alaska Division of Forestry)

This map, issued Sunday, June 18, 2017 by the Alaska Division of Forestry shows the area burned by the East Fork Fire near Sterling, Alaska. (Photo courtesy the Alaska Division of Forestry)

East Fork Fire grows to 1,300 acres

The East Fork Fire on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has grown to more than 1,300 acres, but is still headed away from infrastructure.

The fire, sparked Thursday by dry lightning on the refuge northeast of Sterling, has grown from an initial approximately 200 acres to about 1,300 as of Saturday evening at 8 p.m. Firefighters quickly got the western and southern edges of the fire under control, preventing it from crossing the approximately 3.5 miles to the nearest residential area of Sterling or the Sterling Highway approximately 4.5 miles to the south. They are still focusing on those two perimeters while coordinating with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to manage the fire for ecological benefits to the forest, said Alaska Division of Forestry Pubic Information Officer Celeste Prescott.

The western perimeter particularly burned well, and firefighters on Sunday were physically checking the burned areas for remaining embers in a process known as cold trailing, she said.

“They’re going to go and put their hands along the ground and make sure there’s no smoke, no heat, nothing,” she said. “… We’re making really good progress on that.”

There are currently about 118 firefighters working on the blaze, including four crews that came from other areas of the state. Two water-scooping planes stationed at the Soldotna airport are still assigned to the fire, with three helicopters assisting with bucket drops, personnel shuttles and supply loads, and other tankers are available in the state if needed.

Though weather systems dumped rain and hail on parts of the central peninsula on Thursday and Friday, the blaze area hasn’t gotten any significant rain, Prescott said. The weather Sunday was expected to be cooler with higher humidity, though the weather can be predictable, Prescott said.

“I’ve seen everything from warming back up to getting rain (with higher humidity),” she said.

Part of the strategy is to allow the fire to burn naturally in that part of the refuge to consume some trees in an area that has not burned in a long time, as previously reported by the Clarion.

The public is asked to avoid crews working on the fire in the area and to be aware of aircraft potentially scooping water out of Skilak Lake. There is also a temporary flight restriction on the area and pilots should check with the Federal Aviation Administration before flying in the area.

The Alaska Division of Forestry, the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and the Kenai Peninsula Borough will host a meeting at the Sterling Community Center at 6 p.m. Monday to update the public on current fire activity and management strategies, according to a Sunday release from the Division of Forestry .

Reach Elizabeth Earl at elizabeth.earl@peninsulaclarion.com.

Smoke rises from the burn area of the East Fork Fire on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Friday, June 16, 2017 near Sterling, Alaska. The fire, sparked by dry lightning, had burned about 850 acres by Friday night. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

Smoke rises from the burn area of the East Fork Fire on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Friday, June 16, 2017 near Sterling, Alaska. The fire, sparked by dry lightning, had burned about 850 acres by Friday night. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion, file)

More in News

National Weather Service radar for the Kenai Peninsula and Southcentral Alaska on Aug. 17, 2022. (Screenshot)
Rain, rain and more rain

Low pressure systems drive wet conditions in Southcentral

Sockeye salmon return to Steep Creek to spawn. Alaska’s overall commercial salmon harvest across all species is currently up 15% from 2021 (2020 for pinks) with Bristol Bay and the Prince William Sound largely carrying the weight while other regions lag, according to data from the most recent Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute weekly salmon harvest update. (Ben Hohenstatt / Juneau Empire)
Statewide salmon harvest on the upswing compared to last year

Bristol Bay and Prince William Sound are mainly pulling the weight

Jake Dye / Peninsula Clarion
Congressional candidate Mary Peltola responds to a question during a forum at the Kenai Visitor Center on Aug. 3 in Kenai . Early Wednesday, Peltola had earned 38.4% of first-choice votes in a race that will determine who fills Alaska’s lone U.S. House seat until January.
Mary Peltola responds to a question during a forum at the Kenai Visitor Center on Aug. 3, 2022, in Kenai, Alaska. (Peninsula Clarion/Jake Dye)
Democratic candidate Peltola leads U.S. House race early, but Palin may win in final count

Former governor and Republican U.S. House candidate Sarah Palin stands to benefit from ranked choice voting

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
COVID hospitalizations on the rise

86 patients were hospitalized with 10 patients on ventilators

2022 gubernatorial candidate Charlie Pierce walks in the 65th annual Soldotna Progress Days Parade on Saturday, July 23, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Pierce among leaders in governor’s race

Incumbent Gov. Mike Dunleavy leads the pack overall

Braeden Garrett holds signs supporting Alaska House of Representatives candidate Justin Ruffridge at the intersection of the Kenai Spur and Sterling highways on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Ruffridge, Babcock lead in early primary results

Unofficial preliminary primary election results showed significant margins between the first- and second-place candidates

Pollworkers Carol Louthan (center) and Harmony Bolden (right) work at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex on Tuesday, Aug. 16, 2022 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Local voters cast ballots, try out ranked choice

Locally, multiple candidates have their sights set on seats in the Alaska Legislature.

U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka joins Donald Trump on stage during a rally at the Alaska Airlines Center on July 9, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. Tshibaka is seeking to become one of four candidates to advance in the U.S. Senate race during Alaska’s primary election Tuesday, Aug. 16. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP, File)
U.S. Senate candidate Kelly Tshibaka joins Donald Trump on stage during a rally at the Alaska Airlines Center on July 9, 2022, in Anchorage, Alaska. Tshibaka is seeking to become one of four candidates to advance in the U.S. Senate race during Alaska’s primary election Tuesday, Aug. 16. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP, File)
Murkowski advances in Senate race, Palin in House

Kelly Tshibaka, her GOP rival endorsed by former President Donald Trump, was among the candidates bound for the November general election

Most Read