A map of the Swan Lake Fire as of Sept. 2, 2019. (Courtesy Great Basin Incident Management Team)

A map of the Swan Lake Fire as of Sept. 2, 2019. (Courtesy Great Basin Incident Management Team)

Swan Lake Fire shows little weekend growth despite strong Sunday winds

Winds reached up to 45 mph along some isolated areas of the Sterling Highway

Strong winds hit some parts of the Swan Lake Fire Sunday, but the fire did not grow significantly and all containment lines held.

According to the latest update from the Great Basin Incident Management Team, the winds on Sunday were the strongest they have been since the flare-up two weeks ago that caused the fire to jump across the Sterling highway.

Sustained winds of about 10 mph were reported on Sunday, and winds reaching up to 45 mph along some isolated areas of the Sterling Highway, incident meteorologist Tony Fuentes said.

Numerous fire-weakened trees along the highway and southwest flank of the fire were knocked down by the strong winds but presented no immediate concern. Activities inside the fire perimeter were limited on Sunday so that firefighters were not put into hazardous situations.

Rough waters limited boat travel to some locations on the south flank. Operations Section Chief Rocky Gilbert said in a live update Monday morning that turbulence and rough waters also prevented aerial operations, including water drops from fixed-wing aircraft. Some pockets of fuel along the southwest flank rekindled during the winds but all were addressed, and wet conditions have generally bolstered suppression efforts.

The peninsula experienced some precipitation on Friday and Sunday nights, with some areas of the fire receiving about 1/4-inch of rain on Friday. Fuentes said that Sunday’s rain was mostly on the western side of the peninsula and stopped just short of the fire’s western perimeter, so that precipitation had little impact on fire activity. Fuentes said that another low-pressure system is expected to arrive this weekend that will bring similar amounts of precipitation, and this pattern of intermittent rainfall from low-pressure systems is likely to continue through the month.

In Cooper Landing, suppression operations continue and have settled into a relatively consistent pattern. Crews along the Resurrection Pass Trail north of Cooper Landing continue to construct containment lines with the help of aerial support when weather permits.

Meanwhile, the structure protection group is working to complete protection measures in the Cooper Landing Community by helping residents clear debris and fuels from around their property, clear and chip trees along the roadways and set up hose and sprinkler systems around individual properties.

On the south side of the Kenai River, firefighters proceeded with mop up efforts from the fire’s edge and are extending the containment line another 100 feet into the burned area.

Minimal fire behavior was reported Monday morning. Now that winds have died down, firefighters are making their way into areas along the fire’s edge to mop up hot spots and remove downed trees that could compromise the existing fire line. The current size of the fire is 162,179 acres.

The structure protection group in Cooper Landing is focusing on preparing structures on the south end of the community. Meanwhile, firefighters are installing hose lays and sprinklers along the Fuller Lake Trail.

Cooper Landing remains in a “SET” evacuation status. This status is not a notice to evacuate, but it does mean that residents should already be prepared to evacuate in the situation calls for it. Those who feel they will need extra time to evacuate should do so.

Affected Sterling neighborhoods remain in a “READY” evacuation status. This status is an indication that residents should begin preparing for a potential evacuation if the situation calls for it.

Delays should be expected along the Sterling Highway between Sterling and the Seward Highway junction. Pilot cars are escorting lines of cars in both directions, and the latest highway information can be found at 511.alaska.gov

The Temporary Flight Restriction in the area has been expanded as of August 31. This flight restriction includes the use of unmanned aircraft, or drones, and is in place to prevent the possibility of mid-air collisions as firefighters conduct aerial operations.

Temperatures are expected to be in the mid-60s through much of the week with humidity at about 50% but dropping as the week continues.

There will be two community meetings on Tuesday, one in Cooper Landing at the Cooper Landing School and one in Sterling at the Sterling Community Center. Both meetings will take place at 6 p.m., and the Cooper Landing meeting will be broadcast live on the KPB Alerts Facebook Page.

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