The Tustumena Lake fire. (Photo courtesy Dale Eicher)

The Tustumena Lake fire. (Photo courtesy Dale Eicher)

Tustumena Lake fire reported 25% contained

The fire was caused by an escaped campfire

The 35-acre fire near Tustumena Lake was reported “25% contained” by the State Division of Forestry & Fire Protection on Monday.

That fire, which was discovered Saturday afternoon, is burning around 20 miles south of Soldotna, close to Tustumena Lake in Kasilof. The fire was briefly reported to have grown to 55 acres, but its size was revised Sunday evening when the division said that fire staff were better able to safely assess the impacted area.

The fire is in a wooded area of black spruce away from roads and structures. An update from the division on Monday says that a helicopter shuttle was “quickly established” and has been transporting firefighters to the areas.

Smokejumpers — firefighters who parachute into remote wildfires — have been dropped at the site. Over 56,000 gallons of water were dropped “during initial attack.”

Division Public Information Officer Brandon Hampton said that 23 people were still on scene as of Monday evening, and that between their hard work and some favorable weather, the fire is not expected to grow any further.

A division update says that crews successfully constructed a suppression line around the fire’s entire perimeter on Sunday. Hampton said that the fire is around 25% contained.

Containment refers to how much of the fire’s perimeter is entirely controlled, stopping the fire’s movement in that direction.

It’s difficult to tell, Hampton said, how long crews will be on scene at the fire. Complete control of a fire is a “moving target.” Crews will be working to mop up 35 acres of land, ensuring the area is cool and another fire won’t spring up.

In response to the fire, nearby campgrounds were evacuated Saturday and remained closed through the weekend, including the Slackwater boat launch on the Kasilof River. Homer Electric Association also de-energized supplementary transmission lines in the area.

A Tuesday update from the division says that the Slackwater boat launch and Tustumena campground were opened early Tuesday morning. Centennial Lake campground is still closed “in order to support suppression efforts.”

The division writes that smoke and helicopters will remain visible from Tustumena Lake Road as firefighters continue to mop up “thick black spruce stands” and “brush pockets affected by fire.”

“The fire poses no threat to the residents of the Kenai Peninsula Borough at this time,” they write.

The fire was caused by an escaped campfire, Hampton said. The division is reminding people that it is wildfire season, as well as the Fouth of July weekend — “recreate wisely.” He said people should ensure their fires are out and cold to the touch before leaving them, because wind can cause embers to reignite.

More information about Alaska wildfires can be found at akfireinfo.com, updates from the borough can be found at “KPB Alerts” on Facebook.

This story was updated Tuesday with information about the reopening of Slackwater boat launch and Tustumena Campground.

Reach reporter Jake Dye at jacob.dye@peninsulaclarion.com.

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