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Swan Lake fire continues push east toward Cooper Landing

Alaska Division of Forestry


School was cancelled in Cooper Landing Tuesday, as the Swan Lake fire pushed farther to the east, and crossed the Resurrection Trail north of the Sterling Highway Monday night. Crews spent Monday doing back burn operations intended to keep the active fire off the highway, which had been the case Sunday night.

Cool temperatures, if not exactly seasonal overall conditions, helped slow things down heading into Tuesday, but Ready, Set, Go lines were being reevaluated and residents remain under a Set warning, meaning folks who may need extra time if an evacuation notice is issued should consider their needs now. The east edge of the fire is currently into the Slaughter Creek drainage, up the hill on the north side of town between mileposts 45 and 50, just west of Kenai Lake.

“It’s important to note that all the resources that we have assigned to what we call the Cooper Structure Group, are working diligently to continue with the contingency plans and structure protection plans and all the efforts in and around that community," said Brett Thomas, an operations planner for the Great Basin management team currently working the fire. "We’re well coordinated there with the local fire department. Those resources have been working for the last several days to get those plans in play.”

Part of the plan is establishing camps in  and around Cooper Landing, including housing a crew at the community center Monday night that was on call if the fire came down the hill and pushed east toward town. The transportation plan that emergency managers announced Monday also came into play, with non-local traffic being diverted at the intersection of the Sterling and Seward highways at Tern Lake. Crews are also continuing work on the south side of the highway, building fire line at Surprise Creek to try and limit the fire’s spread toward the Russian river. 

On the Sterling side of the fire, Thomas says hand crews continue their work on the ground, mopping up the west edge of the fire.

“Division Charlie is on the western edge of the fire and thinking about all the values that are at risk in Sterling. Our crews and our mechanized equipment have been focused on continuing those mop-up standards and mop-up goals. A lot of hard work going on in there, removing the fuels and getting water and tools in on the fire that are part of that western edge.”

Other crews are also continuing work inside the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area, protecting cabins and campgrounds. As of Tuesday morning, 635 personnel were on the fire, including 22 hand crews, four helicopters, four dozers, seven water tenders and 21 engines. Total acreage is now at 1580,000 and a cost estimate on operations to date is about $30 million. 


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