After nearly a month, the Swan Lake Fire continues to burn through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge east of Sterling. A community meeting has been scheduled for Friday and management of the fire was handed off to the Northwest 13 Incident Management Team.
The current size of the fire is 79,200 acres, according to the latest update from the Incident Management Team, but clouds and heavy smoke early Wednesday morning prevented a perimeter update by infrared satellite or helicopter mapping flight.
Joe Anderson, public information officer for the Incident Management Team, said on Wednesday that Cooper Landing has been receiving a significant amount of smoke from the fire. The community meeting will address any concerns regarding air quality and let the residents of Cooper Landing know what contingency plans are in place to prevent the fire from threatening the area. The meeting will take place Friday at 6 p.m. at Cooper Landing Elementary and is open to the public.
Between Mile 58 and Mile 63 of the Sterling Highway, near the Skyline Trail, firefighters are developing a strategy for the east side of the fire to prevent it from spreading in this direction. The highway remains open but firefighters will be present. Motorists are advised to use caution and expect delays. The Southwest corner of the fire also remains a priority as firefighters work to strengthen existing containment lines. North of the Homer Electric Transmission line and along the East Fork Moose River, the fire lines along the Sterling Highway remained strong as firefighters continue mop-up operations in that area. Firefighters and Homer Electric have developed a strategy to reduce fire risk for the transmission line with the intention of re-energizing the line later this week.
As the fire continues to spread primarily east-northeast, the Moose Research Center and public use cabins in the path of the fire have structure protections in place and are being monitored.
Smoke conditions on the peninsula continue to be a point of concern, and the Department of Environmental Conservation issued an air quality advisory for the area on Monday. The best place to get information on the current air quality conditions on the peninsula can be found at the University of Alaska Fairbanks smoke prediction website.
The Department of Public Safety issued a ban on the sale and use of fireworks on the Kenai Peninsula, and the ban is expected to remain in place through the weekend, including on the Fourth of July.
A Temporary Flight Restriction is in effect for the area over the fire, and pilots can confirm current restrictions at https://tfr.faa.gov/save_pages/detail_9_0513.html.
The Skilak Lake Wildlife Recreation Area partially reopened on Monday to allow public use at Lower and Upper Ohmer Lakes, Lower Ohmer Campground, Upper and Lower Skilak Lake Campgrounds and Upper Homer Lake Cabin. Skilak Lake Road, along with Jim’s Upper, and Lower Skilak landings also remain open. For more information on the closures, contact the Refuge Visitor Center at 907-260-2820.
Officials for the Mount Marathon Race in Seward on July 4 have issued an announcement due to the persistent smoke from the Swan Lake Fire. According to the announcement, all registered runners will be allowed to defer their 2019 entry to the 2020 race if they choose not to run due to air quality. This includes lottery winners, priority racers, petitioners and special invites. The deferral form and the announcement can be found at the Mount Marathon website.
For the latest on the Swan Lake Fire, visit kpboem.com.