The East Fork Fire burning near Sterling is now estimated at about 1,100 acres. It remains 4.5 miles from the Sterling Highway and 3.5 miles from the nearest residential neighborhoods.
Celeste Prescott is a public information officer for the state Division of Forestry. She says that crews battled the wind over the weekend to keep the fire burning within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
“Luckily we have great guys and gals out there on the line, as well as the support of water-scooping aircraft and helicopters to back them up and they really did a good job of holding that southern perimeter. It pushed down a little ways, but could have been worse, obviously.”
The fire was caused by lightning. Residents in the area near Adkins road reported heavy thunderstorm activity just before the fire was reporter around 6:30 p.m. Thursday. Black spruce in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge is the main fuel source. That part of the refuge is a limited-protection area, meaning crews will continue to working to keep flames away from the highway and other infrastructure, but will allow the fire to burn otherwise. Prescott says some of that work includes cold trailing along the western perimeter.
“And that’s where they literally walk the entire edge, look for any smoke, take their gloves off, put their hands down on the ground, feel for heat and extinguish any possible hot spots. That ensures that if the wind comes back up or something happens and we’re not right there, that the fire, hopefully, won’t go outside that western perimeter. We’re feeling really good about that, and that’s the one that’s closest to the residents of Sterling.”
A community meeting is scheduled for tonight (Monday) at the Sterling Community Center. Representatives from the Division of Forestry, the refuge and the Kenai Peninsula Borough will be there to provide updates and explain the management plan for the fire for the near term. That meeting is at 6 p.m.