The Swan Lake fire in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge shows no signs of slowing down and reached 12,564 acres in size as of Friday evening.
The fire continued to spread mostly to the north and east at a rate of 1/2 mile per hour, according to a June 15 update from the Division of Forestry. Firefighters were able to prevent it from spreading toward the Sterling Highway. The northeast perimeter continues to be monitored by personnel from the Division of Forestry as hand crews work on protection lines for the southwest perimeter.
An air tanker and two large helicopters are providing strategic water drops to protect the highway, the community of Sterling and energy infrastructure, but no retardants are being used because of the fire’s proximity to an anadromous stream. According to the update, retardants could be used if the fire poses a direct threat to infrastructure, which is not the case at this time. Light rain is expected throughout the weekend, but not enough to slow fire activity. Meteorologists expect gusts of wind coming from the southeast at up to 20 miles per hour that may challenge the current fire management strategies in place.
Motorists should watch for fire crews and vehicles entering the Sterling Highway near Mile 82 and 92 between Sterling and Cooper Landing. On Saturday, an air quality advisory was issued by the Division of Air Quality for parts of Southcentral Alaska due to persistent smoke from the Swan Lake fire. According to the advisory, smoke from the fire is trapped below low-level clouds and air quality will range between “good” and “unhealthy” for the duration that the advisory is in effect in the communities of Sterling, Soldotna, Kenai and Nikiski. The advisory also cautions that any area immediately downwind of the fire will experience hazardous levels of smoke, especially overnight and into the early morning.
For more information on the air quality advisory or the Swan Lake fire, visit www.kpboem.com.