The East Fork wildfire burns in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge as seen from the air Thursday, June 15, 2017 near Sterling, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Tim Mowry, Alaska Division of Forestry)

The East Fork wildfire burns in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge as seen from the air Thursday, June 15, 2017 near Sterling, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Tim Mowry, Alaska Division of Forestry)

Work continues on East Fork fire break

The East Fork wildland fire burning near Sterling in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is shrinking in size as fire managers prepare to clear fuels in the area to protect residents.

The blaze, which began with a lightning strike last Thursday, is now estimated to be 1,016 acres thanks to more accurate mapping, said Alaska Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Celeste Prescott. It is still burning about 4.5 miles north of the Sterling Highway in a limited suppression area of the refuge.

Firefighters have been working for days to secure the western and southern borders of the wildfire to keep it from spreading toward the highway or toward Sterling.

“They’re starting to lay fire hose around that western perimeter and around the pipeline corridor as well,” Prescott said.

More than 100 people are still working on the fire, with a hotshot crew from Palmer also on the way, Prescott said. They will be good to have on hand for the planned “burnout operation” that will remove a stand of highly flammable black spruce from the area that could serve as future fuel. Another part of the management plan includes creating a fire break from the fire’s southwest perimeter about 2.5 miles south to the east-west Enstar Natural Gas Co. natural gas pipeline.

Crews were continuing that work Wednesday, Prescott said, including clearing 100 feet around each pipeline valve.

The burning of black spruce trees will have to wait for drier weather so that firefighters can achieve a complete clearing, not leaving any fuels behind, Prescott said.

“If we were to try and do it now, parts and pieces might burn but it wouldn’t be a clean one,” she said.

A temporary flight restriction over the fire is still in place.

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

This map provided by the Alaska Division of Forestry shows the Wednesday, June 21, 2017 location of the East Fork Fire, a wildland fire burning north of the Sterling Highway in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. (Map courtesy Alaska Division of Forestry)

This map provided by the Alaska Division of Forestry shows the Wednesday, June 21, 2017 location of the East Fork Fire, a wildland fire burning north of the Sterling Highway in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. (Map courtesy Alaska Division of Forestry)

Smoke rises from the burn area of the East Fork Fire on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Friday, June 16, 2017 near Sterling, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

Smoke rises from the burn area of the East Fork Fire on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Friday, June 16, 2017 near Sterling, Alaska. (Photo by Elizabeth Earl/Peninsula Clarion)

More in News

The badge for the Kenai Police Department (Clarion file)
Walmart briefly evacuated after bomb threat

The investigation is ongoing.

Peninsula Clarion file
Merry voices to fill Kenai chamber

Historical society carolling event returns after hiatus

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
State officials urge vaccination as omicron spreads in US

Omicron was first identified as a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization on Nov. 26.

Alaska State Troopers logo.
1 hunter dead, another missing after boat hits rough seas off Whittier

The pair were reportedly hunting on Wednesday on Esther Island in Prince William Sound.

Kenai City Council members James Baisden (left) and Deborah Sounart (right) listen as member Teea Winger (center) speaks in support of legislation opposing government COVID-19 mandates, during a meeting of the Kenai City Council on Wednesday, in Kenai.
Kenai council declares opposition to mask mandates

The statement does not change city code or supersede federal law.

Signage indicates that face masks are required for entry to the Soldotna Public Library on March 25, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. The Soldotna City Council voted Wednesday to make mask-wearing optional in city facilities. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Masks recommended, not required in Soldotna city buildings

Council amends measure to make mask-wearing optional

Nick Begich III, seen here in this undated photo, is challenging Rep. Don Young, R-Alaska, for his seat in the U.S. House of Representatives saying Alaska needs new energy in Washington D.C. (Courtesy photo / Alaskans for Nick Begich)
Nick Begich III touts fiscal conservatism in US House race

GOP candidate challenges Young’s record

Sockeye salmon. (Photo via Alaska Department of Fish and Game)
Fish and Game seeks comment on 2022 sport fish stocking plan

The Sport Fish Division plans to release approximately 7 million fish into the Alaska water systems over the next five years.

A map shows which parts of the Chugach National Forest are open to motorized winter recreation use for the 2021-2022 season. (Map courtesy of the U.S. Forest Service)
Parts of Chugach National Forest open to snowmachine use

The 2021-2022 winter motorized season will run through April 30.

Most Read