Friday, 4 p.m.:
Crews working on the Card Street fire will move into a new stage of firefighting over the weekend.
Public Information Officer Sarah Foster said the fire is still 40 percent contained and 8,876 acres in size.
“It’s raining out on the fire right now,” Foster said. “We’ll start moving into the rehabilitation stage.”
Starting on Saturday, she said crews will begin to clean up extra firefighting materials and work to get the area up to “turn back standards.” This means cleaning up the fire lines and working to make the area look as natural as possible, especially in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Additionally, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service issued a Fire Prevention Order for all National Wildlife Refuges in the state, according to a press release. The order prohibits all open fires, including those in fire rings, as well as fireworks. The use of gas grills and camp stoves is still permitted.
Friday, 11:45 a.m.:
The Card Street fire is now estimated to be 8,876 acres in size.
Public Information Officer Sarah Foster, with the incident command team, said this addition is due to the controlled burn performed Wednesday near Skilak Lake.
Containment of the fire has risen to 40 percent, she said.
All hotshot crews have been released, Foster said, bringing the total number of personnel working the Card Street fire down to about 350.
Foster said crews are continuing to search out hot spots near structures using infrared technology. The hot spots can be formed by stumps or other fuel material underground still burning.
“It’s that combination,” Foster said. “It’s similar to putting out a campfire … digging it out, putting dirt on it. There’s a lot of woody debris out there … and those will keep burning for a while.”
There have been no injuries reported since one case of heat illness and a firefighter needing stitches in his finger during the early days of the fire, Foster said.
Thursday, 5:30 p.m.:
The Card Street fire is still reported at 30 percent containment, and crews continued with mop-up and securing fire lines on Thursday.
Public Information Officer Sarah Foster said firefighters paid special attention to the area near the boat launch on Skilak Lake, after a successful controlled burn was ignited Wednesday.
“They’re going to continue to firm up the area where they did the controlled burn,” Foster said.
Foster said that although the rain forecast for Thursday did not materialize, the weather conditions still aided firefighting efforts.
“We’re just continuing to hope the rain comes,” Foster said. “Definitely the humidity helped.”
Foster said it will take a big rain, what is known as a season-ending event, to ensure the Card Street fire goes out. These rains normally come later in year.
“A season-ending event is what all firefighters look for,” Foster said.
Thursday, 2:15 p.m.:
Areas of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge have reopened in the wake of the Card Street fire following a successful controlled burn near Skilak Lake that took place on Wednesday.
Hidden Lake, Upper Skilak, Engineer Lake, Lower Ohmer, Jean Lake, Kelly Lake, Peterson Lake and Watson Lake campgrounds opened at noon on Thursday, according to a press release from the United States Department of the Interior.
Refuge Manager Andy Loranger said refuge personnel were waiting for the go-ahead from the Card Street fire incident command team to proceed with reopening the campgrounds, hiking trails and portions of some roads.
“We’ve been working with the incident command team, and really their take on the status of the fire, the level of mop-up activities and basically a comfort level based on the best available information…that it is safe,” Loranger said.
Public Information Officer Sarah Foster, with the incident command team, said Wednesday’s controlled burn successfully reduced the chance that untouched pockets of fuel will reignite.
The burn began Wednesday afternoon and targeted about 2,000 acres of unevenly burned fuel near the boat launch at Skilak Lake.
“The fire operations folks were really happy with how well it burned,” Foster said. “It was a pretty good consumption.”
Foster said the burn took care of the entire southern perimeter of the fire, and eliminated the pockets of spruce that had the potential to reignite. She said weather conditions supported the burn on Wednesday, and predicted weather conditions should help crews as they continue to contain the fire.
“We heard there’s a chance of rain today and tomorrow, so those are all good things,” Foster said. “We were able to release the hotshot crews. We’re going to continue to button this thing up.”
A total of five Type 1 crews have been sent to lend their resources to other fires in Alaska, Foster said.
Foster said the Card Street fire is 30 percent contained, and crew members are monitoring structures in the Kenai Keys with a hand-held infrared device which detects heat pockets.
Those who take advantage of the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area are advised that some smoke from the Card Street fire will be visible.
Loranger said the reopened areas were not near enough the Card Street fire that visitors will see any results of fire activity. He said smoke from the interior of the fire will still be visible, but is not a threat.
“At this point in time, we want folks to know the campfire restrictions are still in place,” Loranger said. “As far as anything else, it’s just (about) monitoring. There’s going to be smoke in the area; that is still going to be going on for some time.”
According to the release, “all hiking trails in the eastern portion of the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area are also now open.” Skilak Lake Road is open from its east entrance near Jim’s Landing. The road is still closed from its west entrance at Sterling Highway milepost 9.4, the release states.
If visitors notice any smoke, hot spots or fire activity they believe to be “truly threatening,” Loranger said they are encouraged to call 911.
Wednesday, 4:15 p.m.:
Conditions were met for crews to initiate the 2,000-acre controlled burn north of Skilak Lake, which is resulting in a large, visible plume of smoke rising from the area.
Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Andy Alexandrou said work just started on the burn. Originally, wind was projected to be too strong to start the burn Wednesday, he said.
The “big green spot that hasn’t burned yet,” is near the boat launch on Skilak Lake and stretches down along the Kenai River to the area where the Funny River Horse Trail Fire burned last year, Alexandrou said.
Wednesday, 2:30 p.m.:
Enstar Natural Gas has restored service to the majority of its customers.
As of Wednesday afternoon, Communications Manager Lindsay Hobson said Enstar personnel have visited most full-time residences to restore service in the wake of the Card Street fire.
“We do have some left, but that’s mostly for part-time cabins,” Hobson said. “We need the homeowners to be present when we go to do the relight to conduct the appropriate safety check when we turn the meter on.”
Hobson said Enstar needs to get in contact with those part-time residents, which is why restoring the residents’ service might take longer. She said the last appointments for service restoration will trickle in over the next few days.
Residents can set up an appointment with Enstar by calling 262.9335.
Wednesday, 8:45 a.m.:
The Card Street fire has been reestimated to be 7,261 acres.
Public Information Officer Sarah Foster, with the incident command team, said this new size estimate is due to more accurate mapping techniques. In the early days of the fire, Foster said many of the estimations were made by air and other less precise means.
“They’re actually walking the perimeter with a GPS,” she said. “We’re getting into the science end of it now.”
Foster said the personnel working the Card Street fire has been decreased to 427 members after releasing one hot shot crew. She said more crews will be given up as time goes on, as objectives are reevaluated daily and resources are determined to be needed elsewhere in the state.
Foster said crews are still working to protect structures within 500 feet of the fire. Efforts to maintain a strong fire line are also continuing. Some internal areas of the fire, however, are simply too hot to put out, she said.
“There are just going to be some pockets of heat that are going to be here until it snows, frankly,” Foster said.
Foster said humidity conditions did not reach a good enough level to conduct Tuesday’s controlled burn of about 2,000 acres near the boat launch on Skilak Lake. The target humidity level firefighters look for to maintain a controlled burn is about 35 percent.
Foster said the weather neared the preferred conditions once Tuesday, but in general it was not dry enough to complete the burn. The area near the boat launch is full of fuels that were not completely burned the first time around, and pose a threat of reigniting if they are not addressed, she said.
Tuesday, 5:45 p.m.
Crews continued to work on getting water to the interior of the Card Street fire and establishing fire lines throughout Tuesday.
Public Information Officer Sarah Foster said conditions took longer than expected to be good for the planned controlled burn of about 2,000 acres of at-risk fuel. The original plan for Tuesday was to use an areal method of burning the area, which had not burned completely and was at risk to re-igniting.
Foster said crews were on the verge of testing one acre of that land to see if the entire burn could be carried out Tuesday evening.
“The conditions have just gotten to the point that they are in prescription,” Foster said. “They were going to light one acre from the ground just to see if it took. Sometimes you spend a lot of time planning and the weather doesn’t cooperate.”
The fuel needs to be dry enough for the entire area to burn. Otherwise, Foster said it will not be worth attempting the controlled burn.
The Card Street fire has not grown, and is still at 25 containment. Foster said establishing fire lines, mopping up and pumping water into the interior of the fire will continue to be main focuses for firefighters.
Enstar Natural Gas continued visiting homes in the Kenai Keys Tuesday to restore service to the area.
“They still have a little bit more to go,” said Communications Manager Lindsay Hobson.
Hobson said Enstar personnel will continue working in the Kenai Keys on Wednesday to restore service to all remaining customers. Residents can call Enstar to set up appointments to have their service restored, Hobson said.
Tuesday, 12 p.m.:
Two minor injuries have been reported in relation to the Card Street Fire.
Public Information Officer Sarah Foster said one firefighter sustained a minor finger injury which required stitches, while another was transported to Soldotna to be treated for heat-related illness.
“One of the things that is so important to us is that…we take really good care of our firefighters,” Foster said.
Foster said there are two emergency medical technicians in camp, three in the field and several scattered throughout the crews. Other heath-related issues, such as exhaustion, colds and stomach problems, are common when fighting fires, she said. Adjusting to extended daylight has been especially difficult for crews from the Lower 48, Foster said, and they are taking extra care to make sure they get enough sleep.
“You don’t make good decisions when you’re tired,” Foster said.
The Card Street fire is still reported at 25 percent containment, and it has not increased in size. Foster said crews are still out inspecting weather conditions before initiating a controlled burn near a boat launch on Skilak Lake, where the fuels were not completely burned and could potentially re-ignite.
Tuesday, 9 a.m.:
The Card Street Fire held steady overnight at 7,352 acres, and containment is still at about 25 percent.
Cooler temperatures and higher humidity aided firefighters in making “extremely good progress” Monday, but today, crews are hoping for higher temperatures and lower humidity, said Public Information Officer Sarah Foster.
If ideal conditions are met, personnel will be implementing a 2,000-acre controlled burn along an area of already-charred wilderness at the boat launch on Skilak Lake, Foster said.
The operation will focus on a “pocket of fuel,” which has the potential to reignite if temperatures heat up too far, humidity drops again and winds pick up, Foster said.
The process involves a helicopter and ping-pong balls, Foster said. Also known as “dragon eggs,” the ignition devices are filled with an inert chemical. As the ball is shot from the helicopter it is simultaneously injected with a second chemical that causes a reaction, and when the device hits the ground it bursts into fire, she said.
The procedure is safe and precise, Foster said. It is an effective way to address a large landscape with unburned fuel that has the potential to cause problems for the Sterling community again, she said.
If the controlled burn does happen later in the day, large plumes of smoke will be visible again, Foster said. Other than the burn, crews are continuing to “mop up” areas of the fire’s perimeter and continue to use a plumbing system that is pumping water near the middle of the fire, she said.
In the mean time, Enstar’s communications manager Lindsay Hobson said one-third of the 190 homes that were without natural gas were restored as of Monday evening.
Crews are still out in the field Tuesday, working on getting gas back into all of the homes, Hobson said. The quickest way for residents looking for restoration is to call Enstar directly and set up an appointment, she said.
Crews have been going door to door, and will leave a tag on homes they have already visited, but if an owner is not home personnel are not allowed to enter the property and restore the gas, Hobson said.
The number to set up an appointment with Enstar is 262.9335.
Monday, 4:45 p.m.:
The Card Street fire gave firefighters more work on Monday as the sun came out and winds picked up.
“We’re definitely seeing a little bit more activity than we did yesterday,” Foster said. “I don’t think there will be any growth today.”
Foster said the Sterling Highway is no longer threatened by the fire, and that 17 crews are still actively working on subduing it.
“We’re putting a really wide dozer line in,” Foster said.
Foster said crews have been using recent cooler weather to make progress on the fire, as temperatures are predicted to begin rising again.
Monday, 1:20 p.m.:
Enstar Natural Gas is still on track to restore service to approximately 190 customers in the Kenai Keys.
After assessing the accessibility of the area Monday morning, Communications Manager Lindsay Hobson said six personnel entered the field.
“This morning we were kind of doing our final safety checks,” Hobson said. “Now we should be in the process of going door to door along Feuding Lane and in the Kenai Keys areas restoring gas to the homes there.”
Hobson said Enstar personnel might not get to every home by the end of Monday, but that they will be working past regular hours to reach as many homes as possible. Hobson said it is important for residents to wait for Enstar personnel to restore their gas service, and that they are encouraged to call the emergency line in the event that they smell gas. The emergency line for the Kenai Peninsula is 907-262-9334.
Monday, 11 a.m.:
Personnel working the Card Street Fire are preparing for smoke and pockets of heat as temperatures warm up throughout the day.
There are 17 fire crews, which totals 457 personnel, 10 fire engines and three helicopters working on the fire Monday.
Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Sarah Foster said crews have been taking full advantage of the cool weather, which kept areas of the fire’s perimeter in check and the acreage down through out the weekend.
Focus will be on immediately extinguishing those heat pockets that are found within 300 feet of any structure to decrease any chances that those burned areas will reignite, Foster said.
Statewide “open fires and activities which unduly increase the fire danger,” have been banned by the Alaska Division of Forestry and State Forester, according to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management.
Monday, 8 a.m.:
The Card Street fire has a new size estimate of 7,352 acres, said Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Sarah Foster.
A southern finger of the fire was determined to be part of a different fire, she said, and the acreage has been adjusted. Foster said the fire is now at 25 percent containment.
“The weather has really helped us out and given the firefighters a chance to get ahead of it,” she said.
Foster said the Card Street fire’s top priority status over the last few days caused an influx of crew members, bringing today’s total to 450. She said as the fire diminishes, resources will be shared with other fire incidents around the state.
The Card Street fire is still burning hot on the ground, but not in the trees for the most part, Foster said.
“The power company got the power back on on Saturday…so for the residents in the area, life is getting back to normal,” she said.
Enstar has announced plans to return gas service to about 190 customers by Monday afternoon. Communications Manager Lindsay Hobson said that is an early estimate, and the return of service will hinge on the status of the fire throughout the day.
“(We’re) going out and determining whether or not we can proceed as planned this morning,” Hobson said.
In the meantime, Hobson said it is important for customers in the area to remain patient and wait for Enstar personnel to reactivate their gas service.
At 1:15 p.m. on Saturday, Homer Electric Association turned on the power lines it had previously deactivated over concerns about fire-damaged trees, restoring electricity to 169 homes in the evacuated Kenai Keys area.
“We have made temporary repairs in the Kenai Keys area, along with the removal of critically dangerous trees that were very close to falling on the power-line,” said Joe Gallagher, a spokesperson for HEA.
Additional tree-clearing and permanent repairs still remain to be made during the coming weeks, Gallagher said. Those repairs might require “future outages in specific areas,” he said.
Gallagher said he didn’t think any future outages would last longer than a day.
Residents finding problems with their electricity can call HEA at 1-888-8-OUTAGE.
With electricity returning to the Kenai Keys, the Kenai Peninsula Borough lifted its evacuation order on the area. There are no longer any evacuation orders in effect for the Card Street Wildfire.
Shortly after 11 a.m, Nikiski fire crews responded to an unrelated barn fire in Nikiski. It was extinguished by noon. Burn bans have been placed over most of Alaska, and existing burn permits are suspended.
– Clarion Staff
Saturday, 11 a.m:
The Card Street wildfire is currently burning 7,657 acres, according to Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Terry Anderson. A drop in temperatures and a rise in humidity are allowing crews to secure close containment lines around the fire, especially in the north.
“Our northern flank is our priority area,” Anderson said, because of the number of homes in the area.
Spot fires continue to arise around the perimeter, including around Skilak Lake Recreation Area.
“It actually jumped the campground road,” Anderson said. “It burned about two miles on the other (east) side of Skilak Loop Road.” Anderson said firefighters in the area were “holding it just past the road,” about a half mile.
“It’s burning parallel to the Sterling Highway, and it’s actually burning away from the Sterling… It’s burning closer to Skilak Lake than it is to the highway,” Anderson said.
Fire-breaks are being cleared around the perimeter with bulldozers.
Sarah Foster, public information officer for the incident command team, said another planeload of firefighting crews was expected to arrive today from the Lower 48 to work on wildfires across the state, including the Card Stree fire. Currently, 340 firefighters are working on the Card Street fire.
The only area currently under evacuation orders is the Kenai Keyes subdivision. 169 homes remain without power after Homer Electric Association’s deactivation of its power-lines due to the threat of fire-damaged trees leaning over them.
HEA spokesperson Joe Gallagher said that the lines might be reactivated between 12 p.m and 3 p.m. After power is restored, HEA’s contractor will continue work in the area.
“Power will be on, but there’ll still be a lot of cleanup work that will need taken care of,” Gallagher said.
Brenda Ahlberg, spokesperson for the Kenai Peninsula Borough, said the Borough may consider lifting the evacuation order on Kenai Keyes after power is restored to the area.
Friday, 7 p.m.:
In a release sent early Friday evening, Homer Electric Association announced plans to restore power to the Kenai Keys area on Saturday, if possible.
There are 169 meters in the area that have been without power since the Card Street Fire started on Monday, and HEA aims to restore that power between noon and 3 p.m. Saturday, the release states. HEA will only restore power if conditions are “safe to do so.”
Friday, 5:32 p.m.:
A state disaster has been declared in response to multiple fires on the Kenai Peninsula, including the Card Street, Stetson Creek and Juneau Lake fires, according to a statement released by the Office of the Governor.
“I thank all of the hard working men and women who have put themselves in harm’s way to protect life and property for those on the Kenai,” said Governor Walker in the press release.
The state will offer both public an individual assistance. The Public Assistance Program is to help state, local and tribal governmental groups. Those in need can attain funding for “emergency protective measures, temporary and permanent repairs to infrastructure, and technical and funding assistance needed to repair or replace damaged facilities,” according to the release.
The state’s Individual Assistance Program will help people tackle damage to their homes, vehicles, personal property and any medical needs resulting from the fires, the release states.
The Card Street fire has grown slightly, but there is no new size estimate, said Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Terry Anderson.
The fire is still headed east, with pressure being taken off the Kenai Keys are to some extent and placed on the Skilak Lake area. Anderson said crews are still active on the ground in the Kenai Keys, working to keep flare-ups and spot fires down.
The evacuation status for Kenai Keys Road south to the Kenai River is still in place.
“We’re not taking any focus away from there,” Anderson said.
The other main focus for Friday is the lower Skilak campground area, where firefighters are trying to finish constructing a bulldozer line to contain the fire.
“That’s where we’re trying to kind of hold it, so we have a place to kind of build a line around the head (of the fire),” Anderson said.
Park Ranger Leah Eskelin of the Kenai Wildlife Refuge said that the Skilak Recreation Area would be re-opened “as soon as it’s a safe choice.”
“We want the firefighters to operate without worrying about the safety of recreational visitors in the refuge,” Eskelin said.
No new evacuations have been ordered because of the Card Street fire, no additional structures have been burned and no injuries have been reported, Anderson said.
Joe Gallagher, a spokesperson for Homer Electric Association, said that power lines in the burnt area remain deactivated, leaving 169 homes in the burnt area without electricity. Gallagher said the deactivation was due to the danger of damaged-but-standing trees, and that HEA had a crew of contractors in the area working to remove potentially threatening trees.
Since leadership of the fire transitioned to Incident Commander Bob Allbee and his team, Anderson said the fighting has improved.
“It’s really great to have them,” he said. “They bring great mapping organization that puts out fantastic maps. They bring lots of expertise in managing wildfires. It frees up a lot of our local Kenai Peninsula resources.
The new team, combined with higher humidity and cooler weather Friday, has allowed firefighters to get closer to the fire’s edge, Anderson said. Still, he predicted a long fight ahead.
“We’re going to have a lot on our hands until it rains,” Anderson said. “The rain would be the equalizer to put things out.”
Anderson said the Card Street fire is still about 2 miles from the Sterling Highway, travelling parallel with it. However, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources released a statement warning travelers of potential highway delays between mile post 58 and 75. This is the area near Skilak Lake Loop Road.
The statement advises drivers to call travel number 511 for information and help with their travel plans.
Friday, 12 p.m.:
The Card Street fire has not expanded since it was last reported as being 7,578 acres, said Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Andy Alexandrou.
“That’s a combination of firefighters from Alaska, firefighters from the Lower 48. That also includes the EMS people who are assisting the structure protections.”
The evacuation for Kenai Keys Road south to the Kenai River is still in place. There have been no closures to the Sterling Highway, Alexandrou said.
“The progression of the Card Street fire has been the to east,” Alexandrou said. “There may be some issuance of a public service announcement here regarding the possibility of traffic delays on the Sterling Highway.”
Friday, 9:30 a.m.:
According to the borough Office of Emergency Management, the evacuation order has been lifted for property owners from Card Street to Zenith in Sterling. Kenai Keys Road south to the Kenai River remains in evacuated status.
Friday, 8 a.m.:
Due to more accurate mapping, the Card Street fire has shrunk to 7,578 acres, said Alaska Interagency Coordination Center Public Information Officer Andrea Capps.
Capps said there are now 323 personnel actively working to subdue the fire, with more resources on the way. Incident Commander Bob Allbee, of Washington, will take over leading the fight today, she said. Capps said no further structures have been destroyed since 11 burned structures were reported. No injuries have been reported either, she said.
“They’re still are seeing active fire behavior,” Capps said. “We’re just going to have a lot of resources ready to respond.”
Capps said the main focuses for Friday will be continued “mop up” of Feuding Lane, Card Street and other areas of the Kenai Keys, as well as continuing to establish division lines.
Friday, 7 a.m.:
According to a voice mail message at the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center Fire Information Office, there were no impacts to the Sterling Highway from the Card Street fire as of 8 p.m. Thursday. The message stated areas of the Kenai Keys, along with recreational areas near Skilak Lake Loop Road, are still under evacuation notice.
Thursday, 7:30 p.m.:
The Card Street fire continued on its east-bound path through the Kenai Peninsula Thursday, burning through the black spruce of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and nearing the Sterling Highway.
Thursday evening, Alaska Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Terry Anderson said that the fire is 2 miles from Sterling Highway, creating the possibility of a closure. The fire remains south of the highway.
“What we have to be mindful of is any winds that come from the south,” Anderson said.
Bulldozer lines have been created from Aspen Road to Bottenintnin Lake, and from the lake to Skilak Lake Loop Road. The lines are an attempt to prevent the fire from backtracking on itself should the wind shift directions.
The new crew and incident commander, Bob Allbee, of Washtington, were eased into the situation on Thursday with a briefing at the Sterling Elementary School. Anderson said there is not a long-term fire plan yet, but new daily plans are made each night as the objectives for fighting the fire change.
Anderson said the majority of firefighters assigned to the Card Street fire will be camping overnight near the fire lines. He said some may choose to stay in the Sterling Elementary School.
There have been no further evacuations ordered and no injuries reported, Anderson said.
Since evacuation status was lifted for subdivisions from the Feuding Lane and Kenai Keys intersection, north of the Sterling Highway, 150 residents are now able to enter their homes, according to an email from Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Director of Planning & Operations Julie Cisco.
Thursday, 3:30 p.m.:
Evacuation status has been lifted for subdivisions from the Feuding Lane and Kenai Keyes intersection according to a statement released by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management.
The release states areas of the Keys north to the Sterling Highway are also no longer under evacuation status. Areas of the Kenai Keyes south to the Kenai river remain in evacuated status.
In a 12:30 p.m. meeting at the Sterling Community Center, Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Terry Anderson addressed concerned community members about the Card Street fire. The size estimate he gave was the same as reported this morning – the fire has grown to 9,000 acres.
Anderson said the fire is moving northeast through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. He said today’s main focus for the 256 firefighters remains the Kenai Keys and the south side of the Kenai River, where they are working to reduce the prevalence of spot fires.
“(The fire) will go where the wind pushes it,” Anderson said.
Anderson said the Sterling Highway could close if the Card Street fire gets too close or threatens safe driving conditions.
Shannon McCarthy, public information officer for the Alaska Department of Transportation Central Region, said the department would wait for the go-ahead to close the highway from those working close to the fire.
“It really depends, it would be the responders on scene that would make that call, and then the Department of Transportation would assist with putting up barricades,” she said.
Alaska State Trooper Public Information Officer Beth Ipsen said in the case of a highway closure, troopers would be present to direct traffic and monitor checkpoints. Again, she said personnel close to the fire would have to make the call first.
“With the fires that are gong on, (troopers) patrol the evacuated areas, and they’ll also do traffic control,” she said.
Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre and Brenda Ahlberg, Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management public information officer, also spoke at the meeting. They assured community members that resources are being distributed as best they can and that services for those affected by evacuation will continue.
Anderson said meetings will continue to be held at the Sterling Community Center at 12:30 p.m. for the next two days to update residents and volunteers on the status of the Card Street fire. He said the incident commander of the newest team to head up the firefighting efforts is expected to be at Friday’s meeting.
Thursday, 10:45 a.m.:
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management has announced via email that the evacuation recommendation has been lifted for the Funny River subdivisions at the end of Salmon Run Drive to the end of Fisherman’s Road and Dow Island. The email urges residents to use caution when returning to their homes.
Evacuation recommendations are “still in effect for Card Street, east to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and south of the Sterling Highway.”
According to the email, there are 824 structures within the evacuation area.
Thursday, 10 a.m.:
The Card Street fire has expanded to about 9,000 acres, said Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Tim Mowry.
After being pushed across Skilak Lake Loop Road by a west wind Wednesday night, Mowry said the fire is still moving east.
“It did push into the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge yesterday and really chewed up some ground,” he said.
The refuge campgrounds have been evacuated, and the roads and boat landings have been closed. Mowry said today’s focus will remain on the Kenai Keys area and the south side of the Kenai River, where crew members are patrolling by boat, air and land to prevent spot fires from taking hold across the river.
In total, Mowry said there are now 256 crew members actively fighting the Card Street fire. Several of those are members are hotshot crews that arrived Wednesday from Montana and Idaho. There are five Type 1 hotshot crews and three Type 2 Alaska crews fighting the fire, he said.
Mowry confirmed that the newest Type 2 team members have arrived in the area, and that a briefing will be held late Thursday morning to catch them up on the fire’s progression thus far. A firefighting contingency plan will most likely be put in place once the transition from the original team has been made, he said.
“I think they’ll be working with what the previous team’s been doing, and a lot of what they’re doing will be dependent on the weather,” Mowry said. “They typically won’t do much with the fire in the refuge.”
Other factors affecting overall strategy are resources and fire behavior. Mowry said the crews can expect more resources soon, though he could not confirm what kind.
Mowry said, to his knowledge, there have been no further evacuations ordered and no injuries reported.
At this time, the Federal Aviation Administration has not had to divert or suspend any flights in the area. Spokesman Allen Kenitzer said the FAA will remain watchful over the areas affected by fires before a future determination.
“So far we’ve had no diversions, but obviously they have to watch very closely,” he said. “You don’t want to fly right into a large smoky plume.”
Kenitzer said the FAA takes the altitude and flight path of a plane into consideration when deciding whether to suspend or change flights. Often, he said the solution is to simply change the flight path, causing the plane to land at a different airport than originally planned.
According to a news release from the American Red Cross of Alaska, the organization has sent disaster workers into local communities affected by fires in the Willow and Kenai Peninsula areas. The release states the Red Cross has provided overnight stays to 480 individuals thus far.
The Red Cross will open a service center to assist those who have lost their home to the Card Street fire at the Sterling Community Center at 3 p.m., Thursday, according to the center’s website.
Administrative Assistant Rochelle Hanson said the center had no overnight guests on Wednesday, as many people are offering their spare rooms, cottages and other sleeping arrangements to those in need.
Thursday, 7:20 a.m.:
As of 10 p.m. Wednesday, the Card Street fire was pushed by a west wind to the north shore area of Skilak Lake, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center Fire Information Office. The Skilak Lake Recreation Area has been evacuated. Suppression efforts are still ongoing for the Kenai Keys, Card Street and Feuding Lane, according to the center.
Wednesday, 6:40 p.m.:
According to an announcement released by the Kenai National Wildlife refuge, “all open camp, cooking and warming fires and use of charcoal and/or charcoal grills” are banned on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge until further notice because of the Card Street and other peninsula fires. Cooking stoves and gas grills are still permitted on the refuge.
Additionally, all campgrounds, trails and public cabins in the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area, part of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, are closed due to increased fire activity.
Wednesday, 4 p.m.:
Hot shot crews from Montana and Idaho have joined the fight against the Card Street fire, said Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Andy Alexandrou.
An additional five crews comprised of about 20 people each arrived in the Sterling area on Tuesday, bringing the total number of firefighters in the area to about 175. Alexandrou said a number of new members from the much-anticipated Type 2 team have already arrived as well, though he could not confirm how many.
Alexandrou said the Type 2 team will take over the firefighting efforts and be brought up to speed on its progress during an inbriefing Thursday at the Sterling Elementary School.
For now, Alexandrou said firefighters are sleeping in tents and sleeping bags provided to them.
“They usually sleep somewhere in a comfortable setting,” he said. “They are usually provided an area away from the fire. They’re pretty much camping out.”
Alexandrou and Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Terry Anderson said no new size estimate is available for the Card Street fire. The evacuation recommendation has not been expanded, they said.
Alexandrou and Anderson said the 175 firefighters include members from Central Peninsula Emergency Services, the Alaska Division of Forestry, U.S. Fire Service, Kachemak Bay Emergency Services, Ninilchik Emergency Services and Homer Emergency Services.
Additionally, the Alaska State Fire Marshal’s Office has enacted an immediate suspension on fireworks for the Kenai Borough, Municipality of Anchorage and Matanuska-Susitna Borough. The suspension includes both the use and sale of all fireworks.
Burn bans have been enacted for those areas as well, according to a release from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.
Wednesday, 2 p.m.:
No new structures have been burned by the Card Street Fire as of Wednesday afternoon, said Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Tim Mowry. He said no updated acreage for the fire has been made available since it was estimated last night at 2,574 acres.
Mowry said Alaska Gov. Bill Walker is visiting at the Card Street Fire. The governor’s Facebook page states he will be visiting fires in the Cooper Landing area later today as well.
“There’s hot shot crews arriving today,” Mowry said. “They’ve dropped over 60 loads of retardant on that fire. From what I understand, there’s not many more places they can drop retardant because they’re in close proximity to the Kenai River. They’re pretty much looking at dropping water.”
Mowry said the evacuation recommendation for the Kenai Keys and other areas of Sterling has not been expanded. He said Central Peninsula Emergency Services and Kachemak Bay Emergency Services are among several agencies working on the fire.
There is no update available for the spot fire that jumped across the Kenai River near Killey River, but Mowry said responders received a report Wednesday morning of a fire on Humpy Road. He said residents were trying to put the fire out, and crew members responded there Wednesday morning. He could not confirm whether it had been put out.
Concerned residents should call the hotline number set up by the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Services, at 907-714-2495. Program Coordinator Dan Nelson said the borough waits for instruction from the Division of Forestry when ordering evacuations.
“Our main thing has always been to have alternatives,” Nelson said. “Our main role is to support the firefighting operation. We are on standby.”
Wednesday, 12 p.m.:
Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Terry Anderson was unable to confirm the new size of the Card Street Fire stating only that it has surpassed the previously reported 2,574 acres.
One additional home was burned in the Kenai Keys subdivision last night, bringing the total to 11. Anderson said several other structures were saved by firefighters as they battled flames in the Kenai Keys.
“We expect to be very active again today,” Anderson said. “We’re pretty happy with what happened last night. There were many, many structures that were saved.”
Anderson said the Kenai Keys subdivision and spot fires that have jumped across the Kenai River will be today’s main focus on the ground. He said about 100 new crew members have joined the fight today, bringing the total number of personnel actively working to subdue the Card Street Fire to about 175. Anderson and Kenai Peninsula Borough Public Information Officer Brenda Ahlberg were not yet able to confirm which departments all crew members are with.
Anderson confirmed that a hot spot has cropped up near Killey River, which flows into the Kenai River. He could not confirm the size, but said it is not contained and that crews are actively working to put it out.
Wednesday, 9:30 a.m.:
The Card Street Fire grew to 2,574 acres over night.
Crews were, and still are, focused on the fire’s perimeter near Kenai Keys Road, Skilak Lake Road and the Sterling Highway, said Public Information Officer Andy Alexandrou.
As the Card Street Fire expanded Tuesday evening, lightning storms and dry conditions ignited multiple other fires across the Kenai Peninsula, drawing resources from the Sterling area.
“The excitement yesterday was that later in the day there was a wind shift and we got an east wind shift that started pushing the fire back toward the Kenai Keys,” said Alaska Interagency Coordination Center Public Information Officer Pete Buist. “It did what we call plume dominated growth at the end of the day.”
Buist said a large, dark plume developed within the fire, carrying its own fire and its own wind. Eventually, he said nighttime temperatures and slightly higher humidity caused the plume to collapse and the fire to slow down.
Two sizeable fires were reported in the Cooper Landing area by 9 p.m.
The Russian Lake Fire, situated on steep terrain and burning Black Spruce, is most recently reported at 150 acres, Alexandrou said. A small crew was deployed to work on the fire, which is under U.S. Forest Service jurisdiction, he said.
The Juneau Lake Fire, nearly 5 acres, was an immediate, direct threat to structures. A small crew evacuated anyone in the area, Alexandrou said.
A small fire grew no larger than .1 acre in Anchor Point, but 3,000 gallons of water was immediately dropped on the fire by local emergency responders and it was quickly contained, Alexandrou said. Flames have also been spotted near the Village of Nanwalek and crews are staging to assess the size and scope of the new fire, he said.
Five Type 1 Interagency Hotshot crews are being deployed to the Card Street Fire, Wednesday. A Type 2 team from Washington State will be joining Thursday.
“They are ‘the best of the best,’ very seasoned crews,” Alexandrou said.
All of yesterday’s recommended evacuations are still in place from Card Street East to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge Boundary, which includes the Kenai Keys Road along Feuding Lane to the Sterling Highway, the Salmon Run Drive, Fisherman’s Road and Dow Island subdivisions.
Low humidity, high temperatures and windy conditions are expected to persist for the next two days, but are likely to ease up Friday for some much needed relief, Alexandrou said.
Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.:
Crews are starting work on a spot fire, which jumped to the south side of the Kenai River, said Public Information Officer for the Division of Forestry Andy Alexandrou. He cannot yet confirm the size of the new fire.
Tuesday, 6 p.m.:
The Division of Forestry confirmed the Card Street Fire has grown to 2,000 acres. A second recommended evacuation has been ordered for residents along Kenai Keys Road, after a flare up put the fire within one mile of the road.
Tuesday, 5 p.m.:
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management is reporting that 10 structures have been damaged in the Card Street fire. The borough is confirming addresses and will contact residents. As of Tuesday, the preliminary damage report confirms that three structures are homes.
The west entrance to Skilak Lake Road is closed, and the closure extends to Lower Skilak campground.
Tuesday, 3:45 p.m.:
Authorities are evacuating Lower Skilak Campground on Skilak Lake Loop Road on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
Rob Barto, Refuge Law Enforcement Officer, said that the Card Street fire is moving northeast quickly, and all campers need to leave the area. Officials will be closing access to campgrounds, but Skilak Loop Road will remain open.
Tuesday, 2:30 p.m.:
The Card Street fire has been determined to be a human caused fire, estimated to be between 1,500 and 1,800 acres, and is now heading toward Skilak Lake Road, spreading outward from it’s North flank as of 2:30 p.m.
Right now it is about 1.5 miles away from the Kenai National Wildlife maintained road and has moved eastward onto refuge lands, said Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Andy Alexandrou.
There are few structures on the wildlife refuge so few structures are at risk in the area that the flames are headed, he said.
It is spreading at moderate speed, Alexandrou said. Water from the Kenai River is being dumped on the fire from planes and helicopters, he said. The Division of Forestry came up with a “very conservative estimate” of the cost of battling the fire Monday, Alexandrou said. The total for the first day was just under $140,500, and covered paying personnel, contracting aircraft and buying supplies, he said.
As the Type 1 and Type 2 hotshot crews will be joining the fight in the coming days, chances are that number will be considerably higher, closer to the $200,000 range per day at least, Alexandrou said. Brian Gibson, who lives on Cottontree Lane, and some of his neighbors have returned to their homes. He said he has watched planes fly overhead, which are looking for new flare-ups.
Gibson and his neighbors are putting water on small patches of smoldering flames that pop up around their properties. There is still plenty of brush that could be reignited around the homes and everyone is ready to leave at a moment’s notice, he said.
The Card Street fire expanded to 1,200 acres as of just after midnight Tuesday.
The southeastern section of perimeter that stretches along Kenai Keys Road in Sterling is actively burning and advancing, said Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Andy Alexandrou. The 50 firefighters currently working the fire are focused on protecting structures, he said.
Right now, the fire is burning up black spruce trees, tundra and marshy areas, but is a direct threat to at least 200 structures, Alexandrou said. The fire laid down some overnight, he said.
Fire behavior was moderate and gained minimal acreage, but as temperatures rise throughout the day it will become more active, Alexandrou said.
Low humidity, windy, high-temperature weather is expected to continue and there is concern about dry lightning storms that are predicted through 1 a.m. Wednesday morning, Alexandrou said. The units fighting the fire are understaffed for the conditions, he said.
Crews from the Lower 48 will arrive Tuesday and Wednesday to help battle the blaze.
Five Type 1, or Interagency Hotshot Crews, will add 100 trained bodies to the fire lines by Thursday, said Sam Harrel, spokesperson for the Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service. Each crew has 20 members.
It is the second load of Type 1 crews to be dropped in to fight Alaska’s wildfires, Harrel said. The first went to the Sockeye fire in the Susitna Valley, he said.
That group will be landing in Kenai at 5 p.m. Tuesday, and will be briefed so that they can be on the fire line by Wednesday, Alexandrou said. A Department of Natural Resources Type 2 team between 25 and 30 members, from Washington state is also landing late Wednesday afternoon in Kenai, he said.
They will be briefed and sent out by Thursday.
The units are trained in battling fires that are threatening structures in addition to burning wildlands, Harrel said.
The Division of Forestry reported Monday that the Card Street fire has been actively torching and crowning in trees.
Derick Williams, who lives on Cottontree Lane in Sterling, was able to walk back to his house on foot Monday evening. His home is still standing but two of his neighbors lost everything, he said.
A second focused effort to get residents out of the Kenai Keys Road was initiated around 10:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, Alexandrou said. Some people remained in their homes after the recommended evacuation was put in place Monday.
Evacuation orders are still in place subdivisions from Card Street, west to the Kenai National Refuge at Mile 76 and south of the Sterling Highway. This area includes Lepus Avenue, Arlene Avenue, Zenith Street, Caffyn Avenue, and Anetta Street, according to the Kenai Peninsula Borough website.
Evacuation areas will continue to remain in effect for Sterling subdivisions off Feuding Lane to Sterling Highway and Kenai Keys to the Kenai River as well as Funny River subdivisions off of Salmon Run Drive to the end of Fisherman’s Road and Dow Island, according to the borough website.
Fire officials are asking residents to stay away from the evacuation areas. Updates will be provided local media, Rapid Notify and the borough’s Facebook page when evacuations are lifted.