Update: Cooper Landing fires hold steady

Monday, 1 p.m.:

The Stetson Creek fire is estimated at 212 acres, and the Juneau Lake fire is estimated at 573 acres, according to an announcement released by the USDA Forest Service.

“We’re not noticing any big changes,” said Public Information Officer Meg Cicciarella.

According to the release, volunteer firefighting crews working in the Cooper Landing area were reduced from 134 to 102 today, as those protecting structures near the Sterling Highway were released from the Stetson Creek fire. Cicciarella and Public Information Officer Jean Goad said since the fire’s perimeter was well established, the crews were no longer needed.

“That containment level was sufficient that these personnel were released,” Goad said.

Goad said the Stetson Creek fire has been contained by 50 percent, and the Juneau Lake fire has been contained by 30 percent.

The release states the goals for Monday remain to continue building lines around both fires and to continue mop-up procedures for both as well.

Friday, 4 p.m.:

The lightning-caused fires in the Cooper Landing area have not grown in size, according to a press release from the USDA for Chugach National Forest. The Juneau Lake fire remains approximately 400 acres, while the Stetson Creek fire hovers at 250 acres. However, work from “water-scooping aircraft” has slowed the fires, the release states.

A Temporary Flight Restriction is still in place over both fires.

Friday, 12 p.m.:

The Juneau Lake and Stetson Creek fires have been re-estimated after a more successful flyover on Thursday.

The Juneau Lake fire is now estimated at 400 acres, while Stetson Creek looks to be about 250 acres, said USDA Forest Service Public Information Officer for Chugach National Forest Mona Spargo.

Spargo said the previous estimations were inaccurate because smoke was too thick to get a good look at the fires during the first flyover.

“(They) kind of flipped,” she said. “We’re still sending our resources to the Stetson (fire) because of the high value resources in that area.”

Spargo said the northern perimeter of the Stetson Creek fire is near some local businesses, but they are not threatened yet. Cabins in the proximity of the Juneau Lake fire have protective hoses placed around them.

“Right now we feel good about the protection of the cabins,” she said.

A Type 2 team that arrived Thursday has been deployed to the Stetson Creek fire, Spargo said. A Type 3 team that took longer than anticipated to arrive will be given assignments later on Friday.

Spargo said 75 percent of the perimeter of the Juneau Lake fire is active, with the exception of the east side, which is in a higher elevation.

Flight restrictions for flights whose paths cross over either fire were put in place on Thursday, Spargo said.

Spargo said no injuries, additional evacuations, or burned structures have been reported to her knowledge.

Thursday, 7:30 p.m.:

Two fires in the Cooper Landing area showed minimal growth from Wednesday through Thursday, and additional crews have arrived to increase support.

In a press release, Mona Spargo, USDA Forest Service public information officer for Chugach National Forest, said the Stetson Creek fire, located south of the Sterling Highway between Russian River and Cooper Creek, has grown to 400 acres. The Juneau Lake fire, located east of Juneau Lake and north of Cooper Landing, is a little more than 100 acres. Three tankers are being put to work on the fire.

According to the release, an incident management team has arrived from Oregon. Two additional teams arrived from out of state as well. Oversight of the firefighting will be passed from the current incident commanders to the Oregon team on Friday.

A pair of Alaska Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopters dropped water on the Stetson Creek fire on Wednesday and Thursday, the Guard reported. The Black Hawks made 200 drops, totaling 144,000 gallons of water on Wednesday.

According to the release, Cooper Creek Campground, Bean Creek and Stetson Creek Trail are closed. Resurrection Pass South Trail is closed to Devil’s Creek junction. However, cabin rentals are still available along Resurrection Pass North Trail. No cabins are in the path of the Stetson Creek fire, and cabin protections are in place for structures near the Juneau Lake fire.

Thursday, 11 a.m.:

Two fires in the Cooper Landing area have shown minimal growth overnight, and additional crews are on their way to increase support.

Mona Spargo, USDA Forest Service public information officer for Chugach National Forest, said the Stetson Creek fire, located south of the Sterling Highway between Russian River and Cooper Creek, is hovering at a little more than 300 acres. The Juneau Lake fire, located east of Juneau Lake and north of Cooper Landing, is a little more than 100 acres.

“The relative humidity has increased, so it’s made it moister so it doesn’t burn so hot,” Spargo said.

Spargo said the humidity has also increased the amount of smoke in the area, which in turn made a flyover of both fires less successful. Both fires are continuing to burn, she said, because the moss that would typically resist them is so dry that it is supporting the burn.

The fires are sending out “fingers” to the east and north, Spargo said, and making uphill runs into surrounding conifers.

Spargo said a Type 2 and Type 3 team will be in place by the end of the day to lend extra hands and resources to the fires. The Type 2 team will be assigned to the Stetson Creek fire, while the Type 3 team will be assigned later on, she said.

“Our main focus for today is getting our crews in place,” Spargo said.

No additional evacuations have been ordered since Resurrection Pass Trail and Stetson Creek Trail were closed Wednesday. Spargo said she has had no reports of injuries, and that cabin structures in the area are relatively out of harm’s way.

Original story:

Two fires in the Cooper Landing area are expanding and causing problems for residents and responders.

The Juneau Lake fire, located east of Juneau Lake and north of Cooper Landing, has grown has grown from 60 acres to 100 acres, said Mona Spargo, USDA Forest Service Public Information Officer for Chugach National Forest. She said the Stetson Creek fire, formerly called the Russian Lake fire, was estimated to be between 250 and 350 acres as of Wednesday evening.

“We had one forest service crew on the Juneau Lake fire last night,” Spargo said. “With so many other fires, we’re kind of vying for services.”

Spargo said the Juneau Lake fire caused an evacuation to be ordered for four cabins on Resurrection Pass Trail and the trail has been closed. She has not received any reports of burned structures in that area, and said no further evacuations have been ordered for the Cooper Landing area.

At about 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service for Chugach National Forest released a notice that Resurrection Pass Trail South and Bean Creek Trail to the Devil’s Creek Trail junction has been closed until further notice in conjunction with the Juneau Lake fire.

Spargo said a volunteer firefighting group of 11 people responded to the Stetson Creek fire Tuesday night to make an initial attack. She said additional teams are expected to arrive Thursday, and two tankers will be available.

“I think we’ll be sharing resources between those two fires because they’re so close,” she said.

Spargo said firefighters will most likely be housed in the Kenai Lake Work Center, and possibly at the Cooper Creek Campground. She said there have been no reports of burned structures or personal injuries in the Cooper Landing area.

Reach Megan Pacer at megan.pacer@peninsulaclarion.com.

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