The Sterling Highway will reopen as of 12:00 p.m. today, according to the latest update from the incident management team. The highway was temporarily closed after a weekend of high winds and continued drought conditions which caused the Swan Lake Fire to grow significantly and cross the highway at several points.
According to the latest update from the incident management team, the southeast corner of the fire crossed the highway near mile 70 and spread south to Skilak Lake Road. The fire has also jumped the Kenai River and spread into the Surprise Creek drainage. Near mile 71 of the Sterling Highway, close to the Watson Lake Campground, the fire jumped the highway and ran south to Skilak Lake at the Lower Skilak Campground. The fire is currently 127,709 acres in size and grew about 25,000 acres over the weekend.
Lighter winds today will allow for aviation resources to be utilized again and will help the incident management team build an effective strategy to address the fire’s new growth. A type 1 incident management team, the Great Basin Team, will be arriving today with approximately 100 additional personnel and will take over the management of the fire.
Due to the proximity of the fire and the substantial growth over the weekend, the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management has placed Cooper Landing and the Sterling neighborhoods east of Feuding Lane and east of Adkins Road in “Ready” status as of Sunday. “Ready” status is the first stage of the OEM’s “Ready, Set, Go” action plan and indicates that residents should be prepared to take action and evacuate homes if needed. Emergency Manager Dan Nelson said on Sunday that “Ready” status usually comes about 24 hours before an action may need to be taken.
A “Ready” alert is not a notice to leave, but the alert does mean that those affected must be ready for potential evacuation. OEM recommends taking this time to assist family members with special needs, arrange to move mobile property such as boats, trailers or ATVs and prepare pets and livestock. The latest information can be found on www.kpboem.com or by calling the Borough Call Center at 907-262-4636.
In response to increased fire activity, the Red Cross of the Kenai Peninsula has opened an emergency overnight shelter at the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex to assist those affected by the Swan Lake Fire. Anyone in need of shelter, food or information as a result of the Swan Lake Fire or the Sterling Highway closure are welcome, and the shelter will remain open until further notice.
Closures in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge have been extended to include the entire length of Skilak Lake Road and all adjacent recreational trails and day use areas. The Russian River Ferry was closed and cleared on Sunday.
Closures in the Chugach National Forest include the Russian River Campground, the K’Beq Day Use Area, Barber Cabin, Russian River Falls and the Russian Lakes Trail from the Russian River Campground south to Barber Cabin. Closures remain in place on Resurrection Pass Trail from the junction of Devil’s Pass south to the Sterling Highway. This closure includes the following public use cabins: West Swan Lake, Swan Lake, Trout, Romig and Juneau.