A map of the Swan Lake Fire as of Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. (Courtesy Alaska Type 3 Incident Management Team)

A map of the Swan Lake Fire as of Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. (Courtesy Alaska Type 3 Incident Management Team)

Local agencies take control of Swan Lake Fire

The fire is 90% contained.

Management of the Swan Lake Fire is now back in the hands of local agencies as fire activity remains minimal.

The Swan Lake Fire is currently at 90% containment, and as of Wednesday the Kenai Kodiak Office of the Alaska Division of Forestry took command from the Alaska Type 3 Team. The only area of the fire that has not been fully contained is Division Kilo, located at the southeast corner of the fire just east of Skilak Lake. Crews from the Division of Forestry will continue monitoring that area for any potential growth or hot spots, but the rugged terrain has made full containment difficult.

The fire is 167,182 acres in size, according to the latest mapping of the area. Only one engine and eight personnel remain staffed on the fire, which has cost approximately $49 million to manage according to the latest Incident Management Situation Report from the National Interagency Coordination Center. Division of Forestry Prevention Officer Darren Finley said in a video update from Oct. 1 that over 2,000 personnel have been a part of suppression efforts for the Swan Lake Fire since it first started on June 5 of this year.

Heat has also been identified along Skilak Lake Road and is being addressed by crews as they continue to clear fallen and fire-weakened trees, Finley said in the update.

Additional areas of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge have been reopened as of Wednesday. The Emergency Closure Order already in place has been modified to reflect changes in fire behavior and is now limited to areas within the fire perimeter.

The following areas and facilities are now open on the Refuge: The entirety of Skilak Lake Road, Hidden Lake, Watson Lake, the Kenai River, the East Fork Moose River, Upper Ohmer Cabin, Doroshin Bay Cabin, Hidden Creek Trail, Skilak Lookout Trail, Bear Mountain Trail, Vista Trail, Watson Lake Campground and Hidden Lake Campground.

The following areas and facilities remain closed: Mystery Creek Road, Engineer Lake, Kelly Lake, Petersen Lake, Kelly Lake Cabin, Engineer Lake Cabin, Big Indian Cabin, Trapper Joe Cabin, Kenai River Trail, Hideout Trail, Seven Lakes Trail, Marsh Lake Trail, Skyline Trail, Fuller Lakes Trail, Surprise Creek Trail, Upper and Lower Skilak Campgrounds, Kelly Lake Campground, Petersen Lake Campground, Jean Lake Campground, Lower Ohmer Lake Campground and Engineer Lake Campground.

These closures will remain in effect through Nov. 1, but could be extended or rescinded as conditions change. Deputy Refuge Manager Steve Miller said that he anticipates more areas will reopen within the next 30 days. Upper and Lower Skilak Campgrounds remain closed even though they are outside the burn perimeter due to a high volume of beetle-killed trees in the areas. Refuge managers expect those campgrounds to open around the middle of October, according to the emergency closure order.

Unless conditions change drastically, the Division of Forestry will no longer be issuing daily updates on the fire. The estimated containment date is set for Dec. 31 due to the deep pockets of duff and heavy fuels that will continue to smolder in some locations for several weeks and possibly months, according to the incident overview from the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.

The latest information on the Swan Lake Fire can be found at kpboem.com.

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