Photo courtesy/Alaska Division of Forestry A wildfire at Juneau Lake is believed to have kindled from a lightning blast on Tuesday June 16, 2015 near Cooper Landing, Alaska.

Photo courtesy/Alaska Division of Forestry A wildfire at Juneau Lake is believed to have kindled from a lightning blast on Tuesday June 16, 2015 near Cooper Landing, Alaska.

[Update] Cooper Landing fires nearly contained

Monday, 10:40 a.m.:

The Cooper Landing area fires are nearly contained, according to a press release sent by the United States Department of Agriculture on Sunday.

Management of the Stetson Creek and Juneau Lake fires has transferred back from an Oregon incident management team to the Chugach National Forest. Public Information Officer Morgan Warthin said the Stetson Creek fire is 90 percent contained, and the Juneau Lake fire is 80 percent contained.

She said 34 total personnel remain fighting the fires, and are assigned based on remaining fire activity and what mop-up activities are still unfinished.

“So much is dependent on what’s going on with the operation of the fire,” Warthin said. “Resources are moved to the fire…just dependent on the work needs.”

Warthin said crews will continue to work much how they have through out the weekend, focusing on clean up.

 

Friday, 3:30 p.m.:

A firefighter injured by a bear on Monday while working on the Juneau Lake fire has been released from the hospital in Anchorage.

Public Information Officer Meg Cicciarella said he left the hospital Friday, and will return home, rather than to the fire. Glacier District Ranger Tim Charnon was injured when a brown bear charged him as he was monitoring the perimeter of the Juneau Lake fire around 9 p.m. on Monday. He sustained minor bites, and was airlifted to Anchorage.

Meanwhile, the Cooper Landing area fires are holding steady. Their acreage and containment has not changed since Friday morning. 

One initial attack crew from Montana was let go from the Juneau Lake fire, Cicciarella said.

“It generally means that the situation does not need attention from firefighters on suppression efforts,” Cicciarella said. “The Juneau Lake cabin will remain closed for monitoring purposes.”

Elsewhere in the area, the Cooper Creek South campground reopened on Friday, and the Romig, Trout Lake and Swan cabins near Juneau Lake will reopen on Saturday.

 

Friday, 11:30 a.m.:

The Juneau Lake fire near Cooper Landing is now estimated at 580 acres, while the Stetson Creek fire has held steady.

Public Information Officer Meg Cicciarella said work on both fires has remained the same over the last few days.

“(They’re) still mopping up and securing the perimeter,” she said.

The Stetson Creek fire is 70 percent contained, and the Juneau Lake fire is 55 percent contained. There are 114 personnel total assigned to the fires. 

Cicciarella said firefighters will continue working toward better containment of each fire’s perimeter, then move to the center of the fires to ensure they are burning itself out.

“They do this mop up which is going so many feet in toward, let’s say, the center of the fire … sometimes it’s 100 feet and sometimes it’s 300 feet,” Cicciarella said. “The idea is that when you go in that far there’s nothing left because the fire has consumed all the fuel.”

Public Information Officer Jean Goad said that because each fire is different, complete containment and perimeter lines are not always needed. Fires that run into natural barriers, for example, are already contained in some areas.

 “On the Juneau Lake fire, they won’t have a containment line around the whole thing,” she said. “There’s one section that’s burning into a snow bank.”

According to a press release from the United States Department of Agriculture, crews are also working to remove extra supplies and equipment from the area. Management of the fires will be returned to the Chugach National Forest on Sunday.

 

Thursday, 5:40 p.m.:

Containment continues to improve on the Stetson Creek and Juneau Lake fires.

Public Information Officer Jean Goad, with the incident command team, said the Stetson Lake fire is now 70 percent contained, and the Juneau Lake fire is 55 percent contained. She said cooler weather conditions do play a role in progress on the fires.

“The weather does help when it’s a little more humid and it’s not likely to burn,” Goad said. “And we’re expecting more of the same over the next couple of days.”

There are 111 total personnel working on the Cooper Landing area fires, and Goad said the command team will reevaluate their needs daily.

No additional information is available about the firefighter who was injured by a bear Monday, she said.

 

Thursday, 12:50 a.m.: 

According to a press release from the United States Department of Agriculture, some cabin and campground closures caused by the Cooper Landing fires will be lifted soon.

Cooper Creek South campground near the Stetson Creek fire will reopen on Saturday, the release states. The Romig, Trout Lake and Swan recreational cabins near the Juneau Lake fire will also open on Saturday. The Juneau Lake cabin remains closed, the release states.

 

Thursday, 9 a.m.: 

Containment has increased on both the Stetson Creek and Juneau Lake fires.

According to a press release from the United States Department of Agriculture, as of Wednesday night the Stetson Creek fire and Juneau Lake fire were contained to 65 percent and 45 percent, respectively.

Public Information Officer Meg Cicciarella said increased containment only comes with time and with continued work on the lines of a fire’s perimeter.

“The weather has helped, because when it’s hotter the smoke or areas of heat that aren’t as obvious in damper conditions, you can work with them better,” Cicciarella said. 

The Stetson Creek fire is still reported at 212 acres, and the Juneau Lake fire is still reported at 573 acres. There are 116 total personnel assigned to these fires, along with a Type 3 helicopter, according to the release. 

The release states the Stetson Creek fire is considered what firefighters call a “dirty burn,” meaning the fuel and organic matter has burned partially and unevenly. This created the potential for interior areas of the fire to reignite.

The incident command team in charge of the Card Street fire initiated a controlled burn on Wednesday of a 2,000-acre are that had burned unevenly, so as to eliminate the chance it could reignite. Cicciarella said that method has not yet been discussed in relation to the Cooper Landing fires.

According to the release, there is high, active fire on the southeast corner of the Juneau Lake fire, but it is expected to run into a snow bank and burn out. Cicciarella said natural barriers found in areas with more elevation essentially create part of the containment lines for the firefighters.

“When you have fire that runs into natural barriers like rocks or like snow, cert you’re not going to forget about that, but you can move on to other things,” she said. “It’s certainly helpful to the containment efforts when you have natural areas that you’re dealing with instead of areas where you have to be cutting the line.”

The firefighter injured by a bear Monday evening will return from being treated for minor bites in Anchorage today. Cicciarella said there is no additional information about the incident at this time.


Wednesday, 10:15 a.m.:

Firefighters in the Cooper Landing area have made progress containing both the Stetson Creek and Juneau Lake fires.

Public Information Officer Jean Goad said cooler weather has been of help to the firefighters. The Stetson Creek fire is now 60 percent contained and the Juneau Lake fire is 40 percent contained. Their sizes remain 212 acres and 573 acres, respectively. 

“Once they get the line in, they’re going to start working back to do mop up,” Goad said. “They’re putting out hot spots just to make it secure.”

Goad said firefighters are working to protect “high resource values” in the area, including the campgrounds. She said putting out hot spots and securing fire perimeters is important to prevent the chance of materials reigniting.

“It’s really important in this district because fire is not usual here, and so there’s not a lot of firefighters on staff all the time like they would be in other areas,” Goad said. 

Goad said the firefighter injured Monday by a bear while working on the Juneau Lake fire is still in Anchorage. No further information about the incident is available at this time, she said.

No other injuries have been reported.


Tuesday, 4:40 p.m.:

Both fires in the Cooper Landing are better contained than on Monday.

A press release from the United States Department of Agriculture Forest Service states the Stetson Creek fire is 55 percent contained, while the Juneau Lake fire is 35 percent contained. 

Public Information Officer Meg Cicciarella said work continued as planned for both fires throughout Tuesday.

“They are still out there on the line,” Cicciarella said. “They’re working to increase their containment percentage.”

Cicciarella confirmed the firefighter injured Monday by a bear was male, but no further information about the incident is available at this time.

Cicciarella said a Temporary Flight Restriction is still in effect for areas over both fires.

 

Tuesday, 12:15 p.m.:

There is no status update for the firefighter who was airlifted to Anchorage following an encounter with a bear Monday evening.

Public Information Officer Meg Cicciarella said the incident occurred around 8:30 or 9 p.m., and that the firefighter walked about a mile from where the encounter happened to where the helicopter was waiting. She said no other injuries have been reported at this time.

Work on both the Stetson Creek and Juneau Lake fires will continue as planned.

“They’re continuing with their mop-up activities,” Cicciarella said. “They’re continuing to put in fire lines to contain it where necessary.”

Cicciarella said a Temporary Flight Restriction is still in place for flights over either fire.

 

Tuesday, 11:30 a.m.:

The Stetson Creek and Juneau Lake fires are holding steady at 50 percent and 30 percent containment, respectively.

Public Information Officer Meg Cicciarella said there are no new size estimates for either fire. The Stetson Creek fire was last reported as being 212 acres, and the Juneau Lake fire was last reported at 573 acres. 

According to a press release from the United State Department of Agriculture Forest Service for Chugach National Forest, lower temperatures and higher humidity levels helped firefighters in their efforts to establish lines on the southeast section of the Stetson Creek fire and on the west and south sections of the Juneau Lake fire.

In another release from the USDA Forest Service, the first injury sustained through working with the fires was reported. The release states that a firefighter encountered a bear while fighting the Junueau Lake fire, and sustained minor injuries. According to the release, the firefighter was airlifted by a LifeMed helicopter to Anchorage and is “undergoing standard treatment for animal bites.”

 

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.

Photo courtesy/Alaska Division of Forestry A remote wildfire at Russian Lake is believed to have kindled from a lightning blast on Tuesday June 16, 2015 near Cooper Landing, Alaska.

Photo courtesy/Alaska Division of Forestry A remote wildfire at Russian Lake is believed to have kindled from a lightning blast on Tuesday June 16, 2015 near Cooper Landing, Alaska.

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