Skilak Lake Loop Road reopened

  • By Staff Report
  • Sunday, June 28, 2015 9:56pm
  • News

Thursday, 1 p.m.:


The west entrance to the Skilak Lake Loop Road has reopened, said Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Andy Alexandrou.

The boat launch on Skilak Lake and the Lower Skilak Lake Campground have reopened as well, he said.

Management of the Card Street fire has transitioned to a Type 3 local team.

Alexandrou said the fire is now 90 percent contained. Only three crews, about 80 total people, are working on it, he said.

One crew is from the Yukon, while the other two hail from Nevada and Idaho. Alexandrou said the firefighters have one fire engine and one helicopter at their disposal.

Fire growth on the Cooper Landing area fires is not expected at this point, said Morgan Warthin, public information officer for the Chugach National Forest.

“The Juneau Lake fire is now 85 percent contained, so progress is being made there,” Warthin said.

There is one Type 4 incident commander patrolling the Juneau Lake fire just in case action is needed. Warthin said there are 26 firefighters still working on the Stetson Creek fire.

Firefighters observed smoke in three places on the Stetson Creek fire, but Warthin said fire managers do not expect any action from that fire.

Warthin said firefighters will continue with patrol and mop-up activities. Operation of the Cooper Landing area fires will transition to management staff in the Sterling district on Friday, she said.


Wednesday, 6:10 p.m.:


The incident management team from Washington will fly home Thursday and local resources will take over operation of the Card Street fire.

Max Konkright, public information officer for the Washington management team, said local personnel spent Wednesday shadowing the Washington team and were brought up to speed on everything to do with the fire.

“Everything’s going really smooth with the transition,” Konkright said. “It’s a pretty thorough deal. You don’t want to miss anything.”

Konkright said any remaining questions will be answered at a close-out meeting at 7:30 p.m, Wednesday.

The local management team will take over mop up activities and continue to rehabilitate the land that was disturbed in the process of firefighting.

“They’ll even get probably more in depth with the rehab because they’re going to be here for a while,” Konkright said. “I would assume for the fire part, it’s probably another seven days.”

Konkright said the number of work days left on the Card Street fire will vary depending on weather conditions.

The total number of minor injuries is now up to 19. Konkright said one firefighter was treated Tuesday for an allergic reaction, and returned to work Wednesday.



Wednesday, 2:15 p.m.:


The Cooper Landing area fires are contained to the point that visitors can utilize the Chugach National Forest for Independence Day activities. However, forest law enforcement will crack down on those who threaten the area by violating the fire and firework restrictions.

The Juneau Lake fire is 80 percent contained and the Stetson Creek fire is 100 percent contained, said Public Information Officer Morgan Warthin. Campfires and stove or charcoal fires are now allowed, but only in designated forest campsites, according to a press release from the United States Department of Agriculture. Warthin said fires are still restricted in dispersed campsites, which she explained as being created by campers and not officially recognized by Chugach National Forest.

“A dispersed campsite would be, for instance, at the end of the road where people have created a fire ring with rocks,” Warthin said.

Campers are now welcome to utilize the Cooper Creek North and South Campgrounds, Resurrection Pass Trail, Bean Creek Trail and the Romig, Trout Lake and Swan cabins along the Resurrection Pass Trail, according to the release. Stetson Creek Trail and the Juneau Lake cabin remain closed.

Warthin warned that, while both fires are safely contained, campers might see the occasional bit of smoke during the Independence Day weekend. She said the smoke is nothing to worry about.

“They might see random kind of individual smoke coming from the fire’s interior,” Warthin said. “The fire managers are confident there will not be anymore significant fire growth.”

Warthin said it is important for visitors to remember that fireworks are prohibited in the Chugach National Forest in general.

Violators face a fine of up to $5,000 for an individual, a fine of up to $10,000 for an organization, or imprisonment for up to six months or both.

“Really the focus there is of course public safety,” Warthin said. “Education is always first and foremost on our minds, and we want to do our part on educating users on what they can and cannot do.”



Tuesday, 5:50 p.m.:


Crews working the Card Street fire spent Tuesday preparing for rehabilitation efforts.

Public Information Officer Max Konkright said firefighters moved trees and brush, and are waiting on equipment to start repairing damaged land. The goal, he said, is to get the fire lines to look as though they haven’t been disturbed.

Firefiighters also have been patrolling structures with hand held infrared devices, checking for hot spots.

“They’re still finding a bit of heat, but not as close to the structures as it was before,” Konkright said.

To his knowledge, Konkright said no heat has been found within 400 feet of any structures.

Konkright said local crews will begin shadowing the incident management team on Wednesday and prepare to take over fire operations on Thursday.



Tuesday, 12:40 p.m.:


The burn closure has been lifted for the majority of the state, according to a press release from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

According to the release, the ban is being lifted on “state, private and municipal lands” in the Kenai, Matanuska-Susitna and Denali boroughs, the Tanana Valley north of the Alaska Range and the Copper River Valley. The closure has not been lifted in Southwest Alaska or the Municipality of Anchorage.

The burn ban is still in place for game management units 9, 17, 18, 19 and 21, according to the release. To view a map of game management units, visit


Tuesday, 12:15 p.m.:


The Card Street fire is 80 percent contained, said Max Konkright, public information officer for the incident management team.

Mop-up and rehabilitation activities will continue Tuesday as they have for the past few days, he said. Konkright said when crews rehabilitate land after a fire, it involves trying to make it look like it did before any disturbance.

“It’s a lot of work, especially with down trees and trying to spread those out,” Konkright said.

Konkright said the incident management team is attempting to reopen the Skilak Lake Loop Road as well.

“We’re working with the local agency to do what we can to come up with a plan to get that road open,” he said.

As of Tuesday afternoon, Konkright said there have been a total of 18 minor injuries reported. One firefighter who had not been cleared to work on Monday has been release and sent home, he said.

Konrkight said there are only four crews, about 160 people, still working on the Card Street fire. Personnel who are released are either reassigned to other fire incidents in Alaska or sent home for a mandatory break.

“The remaining Team 3 will return to their home units and go back to their regular jobs, and prepare for the next deployment,” Konkright said.



Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.:


The Stetson Creek fire is 100 percent contained, said Morgan Warthin, public information officer for Chugach National Forest.

“There are 30 resources that are still working on that fire or are tied to that fire,” Warthin said.

The Bitterroot Type 2 1A crew and nine members of a local crew are continuing to mop up the Stetson Creek fire. Warthin said they are also starting rehabilitation efforts on the lines around the Stetson Creek fire’s perimeter.

The Juneau Lake fire has moved into what Warthin called a monitoring status. She said this means there is no longer a threat that the fire could grow, and firefighters are no longer actively working on it.

“At this point, there’s no heat from the fire,” Warthin said. “Fire managers will continue to monitor the Juneau Lake fire.”

Warthin said Tim Charnon, a firefighter injured on June 22 by a brown bear, is doing well and healing at home.

“The best news is that he’s in good shape,” Warthin said. “He’s actually back working for some hours during the day.”

Charnon, who works for Chugah National Forest when he is not fighting fire, is working from home.

Warthin said the burn closure in place for Chugach National Forest will be lifted today.

“At this point, we are going to rescind our stage two restrictions, so effective today campfires will be allowed in designated campgrounds,” Warthin said.

Fires must also be contained to designated fire rings. The Stetson Creek Trail remains closed, as does Juneau Lake Cabin. Other cabins on Juneau Lake are open, Warthin said.



Tuesday, 10:20 a.m.:


The burn closure has been lifted for the Kenai Peninsula, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough and several game management units throughout Alaska.

Campfires, charcoal and other cooking fires are now allowed, said Division of Forestry Information Officer Andy Alexandrou. The United States Forest Service has not lifted the burn closure on federal lands, he said.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has not reopened the burn ban inside its campgrounds.

Alexandrou said people need to be aware that while the closure is lifted, a burn suspension is still in place. Burn permits are still required for debris piles or burn barrels.

“Right now, you can have a campfire, but you can’t burn your debris within the permit regulations,” Alexandrou said.

According to a release from the Alaska State Fire Marshal, the fireworks suspension has been lifted for the Copper River Valley, Firbank North Star Borough, Kenai Borough, Matanuska-Susitna Borough, Municipality of Anchorage and the Tanana Valley north of the Alaska Range. Alexandrou said it is important that residents remember the use of fireworks is banned on the Kenai Peninsula.


Monday, 2 p.m.:


Rehabilitation efforts will not begin on the Cooper Landing area fires until they are 100 percent contained, said Morgan Warthin, public information officer with the Chugach National Forest.

“Those rehab efforts are suppression and repair focused,” Warthin said. “And because the fires have not received 100 percent containment yet, we are not focused on rehab yet.”

The Stetson Creek fire is 90 percent contained, and the Juneau Lake fire is 80 percent contained. Warthin said waiting to begin rehabilitation of the area makes sense from a safety and operation standpoint.

Instead, crews will continue mop-up activities for both fires, working from the outside in, Warthin said.



Monday, 12 p.m.:


Management of the Card Street fire will transition back to local crews on Wednesday, said Max Konkright, public information officer with the current incident management team.

Until then, he said crews will continue with mop-up activities and rehabilitation of lines on the fire’s perimeter. The Card Street fire is 70 percent contained and is 8,876 acres.

Konkright said some people might tend to think that because they can’t see flames, the fire is out and work is winding down. He said many areas retain enough heat to restart the fire, which requires continued vigilance.

“We’re patrolling for spots. We’re out there available for whatever happens,” Konkright said. “The challenge is finding the hot spots that don’t have flames.”

The total number of personnel on the fire has been reduced to about 229, Konkright said. Some are “timing out” on their work on the Card Street fire, while others are merely taking a break. Firefighters are required to rest every 14 days, Konkright said.

“Most of them are being reassigned to other fires in Alaska,” Konkright said. “We actually have a crew here that’s going to R&R (for) one day.”

Konkright said there have been 17 minor injuries reported since the management team from Washington took over around June 20. They include a crushed finger, a cut leg, muscle strains and other minor illnesses.

“We’ve had a (few get) sick,” Konkright said. “We’ve had a couple bee stings that took people off the line because we were concerned about their airways.”

Of the 17 injured firefighters, seven have been transported to Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna, and only one firefighter has not been cleared to return to work.

When local management takes over operation of the fire on Wednesday, Konkright said he expects there will be about another week of work ahead of them. This will consist of more rehabilitation and mop-up.

“It’s just checking those spots and making sure everything hot is found,” Konkright said.




Fire crews continued mop up duties and rehabilitation of fire lines on the Card Street street fire, which is now in marshlands in the Skilak Recrearion Area on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

According to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, the fire has burned 8,876 acres since it began June 15 and is now 60 percent contained. Fire personnel are using hand-held infrared devices to detect pockets of heat, which will marked and extinguished. Managers say isolated pockets of heat will continue to be seen in the interior of the fire. A total of 256 personnel are assigned to the incident, including 12 fire crews, four fire engines and one helicopter.

Resources are being released to assist with firefighting efforts elsewhere.

Skilak Lake Road remains closed from the west entrance at the Sterling Highway to milepost 9.3 at the Engineer Lake Overlook. Lower Skilak Campground and Boat Launch and Bottenintnin Lake day use area remain closed. The road is open on the east end, to the upper Skilak Lake boat launch. Motorists are asked to be cautious of changing fire conditions and fire personnel in the area.

In Cooper Landing, Chugach National Forest personnel have taken over management of the Stetson Creek and Juneau Lake fires.

Officials say the Stetson Creek Fire is 90 percent contained. Fire activity as of Saturday included creeping fire and smoldering. Minimal fire spread was anticipated Sunday due to weather and suppression tactics. A total of 34 personnel remain assigned, including the Bitteroot Type 2 IA and Chugach crews. The lightning-caused fire burned 212 acres.

The Juneau Lake Fire is 80 percent contained. It also was observed to be creeping and smoldering; minimal fire growth was projected Sunday and the fire was being monitored and patrolled. Also lightning-caused, the fire burned 580 acres.

A burn restriction remains in place. The Alaska Division of Forestry prohibits the use of all open fires and activities which unduly increase the fire danger, including the use of fireworks, which are illegal in the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Gas grills, backpacking or camp stoves using fuel or compressed canisters which can be regulated and shut off are still permitted for use.

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