Progress made on fires, Diamond Ridge evacuation notice lifted

The updated Swan Lake Fire Map for Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management)

The updated Swan Lake Fire Map for Friday, Aug. 23, 2019, in Kenai, Alaska. (Photo courtesy of the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management)

Update 3:26 p.m.: Both lanes of the Sterling Highway, between milepost 75 and 53, are closed due to helicopter operations. This is anticipated to be a temporary closure, according to an update from the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management

Firefighters continue to make progress and manage three major fires on the Kenai Peninsula. To date, there have been 671 wild land fires across the state, covering some 2,523,852 acres, according to Friday’s state situation report. There are currently 224 active fires with seven that are staffed.

North Fork Fire

The Level one READY evacuation notice for the Diamond Ridge area has been lifted.

Great progress has been made on the North Fork Fire near Diamond Ridge in the Homer area, according to the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management’s Friday update.

The fire is 75% contained and around 59 acres, Thursday.

Caribou Lake Fire

Friday morning, the Great Basin Incident Management Team 1 took over command of the Caribou Lake Fire, which is about 25 miles northeast of Homer. There are no evacuation notices around Long or Caribou Lakes, and no immediate threats to nearby structures.

A meeting regarding the fire will be held 3 p.m., Saturday at McNiel Canyon School.

The fire is estimated to be around 848 acres, with 28 personnel managing it. The cost to date for the fire is $450,000, according to Friday’s National Interagency Coordination Center Incident Management Situation Report.

Swan Lake Fire

The Swan Lake Fire near Sterling has grown to 144,132 acres, with 398 personnel managing it. The Sterling Highway remained open Thursday and continues to be open Friday morning. The cost to date for managing the fire is now at $26 million, according to Friday’s National Interagency Coordination Center Incident Management Situation Report.

A dense smoke advisory issued by the National Weather Service is in effect for the central peninsula until 1 p.m. Friday.

Firefighting resources were bolstered Thursday with the addition of five hand crews, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management’s Friday update said. The crews worked the southwestern flank of the fire, south of the Sterling Highway.

Four boats carried two fire crews across the Kenai River to manage the fire in the Surprise Creek area, according to the update.

Firefighters will be working to curb fire spread south of the Sterling Highway and southeast toward Cooper Landing and southwest toward Sterling. Crews will continue boating across the Kenai River to work in the Surprise Creek area.

Easterly winds will shift smoke out of the north west by the afternoon, the update said. Cooper Landing is likely to experience heavier smoke Friday.

The chance for showers remains low through the weekend, the update said.

The communities of Cooper Landing and the Sterling neighborhood east of Feuding Lane and east of Adkins Road are still in a READY evacuation status, which has been in effect since Sunday. A READY notice is not a call to evacuate, but means there is potential for evacuation.

Closures in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge include the entire length of Skilak Lake Road, and all recreational trails and day use areas within. The Russian River Ferry is closed. The Upper Kenai River between Cooper Landing State Boat Launch and where the river enters Skilak Lake is closed. Closures in the Chugach National Forest include the Russian River Campground, K’Beq Day Use Area, Russian River Falls, and the Russian Lakes Trail from the Russian River Campground south including Barber Cabin. Closures on Resurrection Pass Trail from the junction of Devil’s Pass south to the Sterling Highway remain in place, which includes public use cabins: West Swan Lake, Swan Lake, Trout, Romig, and Juneau.

There is a temporary flight restriction in place for the air space over the Swan Lake Fire, which includes unmanned aircraft systems and drones.

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