The southbound lane of the Sterling Highway was reopened as of noon on Thursday, after fire crews completed their burnout operations along the road. Both lanes were still moving slowly due to a posted speed limit of 35 mph and Alaska State Troopers were on scene enforcing the speed limit, according to an update from the Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team.
There is still a possibility of lane closure over the next few days as the incident management team continues to monitor the fire’s progression.
As of Thursday morning, the Swan Lake Fire had reached 48,199 acres and is staffed by 517 personnel from various local, federal and state agencies, including several ground crews from the Lower 48. The fire was caused by a lightning strike on June 5 and is located approximately 5 miles northeast of the community of Sterling.
The fire’s growth to the northeast is currently stalled at Chickaloon River, but over the next few days the fire is expected to continue spreading in that direction, according to a Thursday update. Winds from the northwest may push the fire closer to the Sterling Highway over the next few days, but the completed burnout operations are expected to limit any growth in that direction. Weather conditions continue to be warm and dry with a maximum temperature forecast of 87 degrees Fahrenheit over the weekend.
To the northeast of the fire is a valve site for the ENSTAR gas pipeline as well as the Trapper Joe pubic use cabin. Structure protection crews are on scene at these locations, clearing away burnable vegetation and preparing water pumps and hoses to protect the areas.
The Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is currently closed to public use, including campgrounds, trails and cabins. Skilak Lake Road, along with Jim’s, Upper and Lower Skilak boat ramps remain open. For more information on the closures, contact the Refuge Visitor’s Center at 907-260-2820. For the latest information on the Swan Lake Fire, call the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management at 907-262-4636 or visit www.kpboem.com.