Visibility on the Kenai Peninsula continues to improve as the Swan Lake Fire showed little change over the weekend, according to the latest information from the Northwest 13 Incident Management Team.
The south and west perimeters of the fire remained calm where extensive control lines have been established, and additional lines are being constructed to halt fire spread toward Cooper Landing. Crews have been using existing trails and natural features to establish control lines on the east perimeter.
Along the East Fork Moose River, crews continue to mop-up hot spots, and sites to the north and northwest have firefighting personnel and structure protection in place. On Friday, the Homer Electric transmission line running along the Sterling highway was re-energized.
On Thursday and Friday, firefighters had to deal with two cases of aircraft being operated in the temporary flight restriction zone, which threatened to delay firefighting operations. On Thursday, crews working along the Sterling Highway noticed an unmanned drone flying in the vicinity, Public Information Officer Jonathan Ashford said. Ashford said the drone landed quickly after being spotted, and crews were unable to identify the pilot. Operating a drone is prohibited on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge at all times. Operating a drone near a wildfire is a also violation of U.S. code, and doing so can result in significant fines, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.
A second violation of the temporary flight restriction occurred on Friday when a floatplane was seen flying directly over the fire crew’s helibase. Personnel notified the proper authorities, including the Federal Aviation Administration, but were unable to identify the pilot of the floatplane. Ashford said that the protocol when an unauthorized aircraft has been spotted flying in the vicinity of a wildfire is that all firefighting aircraft must be grounded immediately, which can delay firefighting operations by up to an hour at a time. Ashford said that both Thursday and Friday’s incidents happened quickly enough that no aircraft was grounded as a result. The temporary flight restriction remains in effect for the area and pilots can visit http://tfr.faa.gov for more information.
The latest measurement of the Swan Lake Fire puts it at 100,516 total acres, and it is staffed by 427 personnel from various local, state and federal agencies.
Open fires and campfires are prohibited on the Kenai Peninsula and in other areas of Alaska. Portions of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and the Chugach National Forest remained closed as well, and current closures can be found at http://kenai.fws.gov or http://www.fs.usda.gov/news/chugach/news-events.