A photo of the Tustumena Lake Fire taken at 11 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5, 2019, illustrates the effect retardant and water drops had on the fire. (Photo by Jason Jordet/Alaska Division of Forestry)

A photo of the Tustumena Lake Fire taken at 11 p.m. on Wednesday, June 5, 2019, illustrates the effect retardant and water drops had on the fire. (Photo by Jason Jordet/Alaska Division of Forestry)

Wednesday thunderstorms spark 5 fires on the Peninsula

Suppression efforts continue on a large wildfire near Tustumena Lake that started Wednesday night as a result of thunderstorms and lightning strikes across the Kenai Peninsula.

A helicopter pilot discovered the fire at 6 p.m. Wednesday night while en route to check on a lightning strike in the area. As of midnight Wednesday, the Tustumena Lake Fire had reached 121 acres in size and a crew of 15 was working to prevent the flames from spreading by mopping up hot spots and digging fire lines where needed.

According to the latest update on Akfireinfo.com, the suppression teams included The Division of Forestry’s Pioneer Peak Interagency Hotshot Crew and the Yukon Type 2 Initial Attack Crew, which are based in Palmer and Soldotna, respectively. Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Andy Alexandrou said that these are elite crews who are trained specifically in ground suppression techniques for larger fires.

In addition to suppression crews on the ground, an air tanker based in Palmer was sent to the Tustumena Lake Fire Wednesday night and dropped four loads of retardant at the head of the blaze.

The Tustumena Lake Fire started in the footprint of the 2007 Caribou Hills fire, among fallen spruce trees and fresh grass. Alexandrou said that these areas make for flashier fires that ignite quickly, but they tend not to spread as easily as crown fires — blazes that reach the tops of standing trees and get carried by the wind.

The Tustumena Lake Fire was one of eight wildfires started by lightning on Wednesday, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, with five occurring on the Kenai Peninsula and three in Southwest Alaska. Alexandrou said that Wednesday’s fires are the first instances this year of lightning-caused fires on the peninsula. The other 19 recorded have been caused by human activity. Almost 4,200 lightning strikes occurred across the state on Wednesday, with 128 occurring on the Kenai Peninsula.

The Tustumena Lake Fire is located in the Caribou Hills approximately 30 miles south of Soldotna. Alexandrou said that the fire is at least 10 miles from the nearest structure and no evacuations were ordered.

According to Akfireinfo.com, the other four fires on the peninsula are burning in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Fire managers are currently assessing what actions to take, if any. These fires are no more than an acre in diameter each and are in remote areas. Fire managers conducted detection flights on the peninsula and in Southwest Alaska on Thursday to identify any additional fires started by Wednesday’s lightning.

Visit Akfireinfo.com for the latest information on wildfire activity in Alaska.

More in News

Dr. Katherine Ortega Courtney speaks during the 100% Alaska Community Town Hall on Saturday, June 3, 2023, at Peninsula Center Mall in Soldotna, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
100% Alaska survey results, state of services discussed at town hall

Change 4 the Kenai leads conversation about access to mental health, housing, transportation

Soldotna High School senior Josiah Burton testifies in opposition to a proposed cut of Kenai Peninsula Borough School District theater technicians while audience members look on during a board of education meeting on Monday, March 6, 2023, in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Awaiting state funding, board of ed works to bring back staff positions

Alaska lawmakers this session passed a budget bill that includes $175 million in one-time funding for Alaska’s K-12 schools

David Brighton (left) and Leslie Byrd (right) prepare to lead marchers from the Soldotna Regional Sports Complex to Soldotna Creek Park as part of Soldotna Pride in the Park on Saturday, June 3, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
‘Nobody Can Drag Us Down’: Soldotna celebrates LGBTQ+ pride

The event featured food trucks, vendors and a lineup of performers that included comedy, drag and music

Judges Peter Micciche, Terry Eubank and Tyler Best sample a salmon dish prepared by chef Stephen Lamm of the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank at Return of the Reds on Saturday, June 3, 2023, at the Kenai City Dock in Kenai, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai celebrates ‘Return of the Reds’ in food bank fundraiser

Chefs competed for best salmon recipe; fresh-caught fish auctioned

A freshly stocked rainbow trout swims in Johnson Lake during Salmon Celebration on Wednesday, May 10, 2023, at Johnson Lake in Kasilof, Alaska. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Excellent lake fishing, good halibut and slow salmon

Northern Kenai Fishing Report for June 1

Map via Kenai Peninsula Borough.
Assembly to consider emergency service area for Cooper Landing

Borough legislation creating the service area is subject to voter approval

Peter Micciche (center) listens to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly certify the results of the Feb. 14, 2023, special mayoral election, through which he was elected mayor of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, on Tuesday, Feb. 21, 2023 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Thousands respond to borough services survey

Many of the survey questions focused on the quality of borough roads

Two new cars purchased by the Soldotna Senior Center to support its Meals on Wheels program are parked outside of the center in Soldotna, Alaska, on Wednesday, March 30, 2022.(Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion file)
Soldotna budget defunds area senior center

The unanimous vote came after multiple people expressed concerns about how the center operates

An Epidemiology Bulletin titled “Drowning Deaths in Alaska, 2016-2021” published Wednesday, May 31, 2023. (Screenshot)
Health officials say Alaska leads nation in drowning deaths, urge safe practices

A majority of non-occupational Alaska drownings occur in relation to boating, both for recreation and for subsistence

Most Read