Fire managers expect season change to keep Swan Lake Fire down

Sep 17, 2019

The change of seasons and what might be the first big storm of the fall has incident commanders working the Swan Lake Fire optimistic that it will not flare up again as it did once before.
    As a result, all evacuation alerts around Cooper Landing were removed this (Tuesday) morning, and all but one channel of the Upper Kenai River has been reopened to public use.
    Emergency planners do caution Cooper Landing residents to remain aware and prepared however, until a season-ending rain storm comes.
    Fortunately, a front associated with a typhoon remnant is expected to sweep across the Gulf of Alaska tonight and tomorrow, bringing with it up to an inch of rain.
    Bruce Gearsdorf is the fire behavior analyst with the Northern Rockies Team 4 managing the Swan Lake Fire. At Monday night’s community meeting in Cooper Landing, he showed an animation of the coming weather.
  “Those are the little pulses of moisture that we've been seeing about every three days or so have been coming through. That's those little pulses are coming through there again, and we can expect to see that pattern continued. It's kind of a normal fall pattern. We've moved into that here now.”
   As a result, Gearsdorf says the 15-week-old fire will not return to active life, because conditions now are different than when it flared up in August.
“Guess I'm here to tell you that I think that the chances for it to come all the way back to having large fire growth here on this fire is pretty slim,” he said. “And the reason I say that is because we're just getting later in the year and things just keep falling off right now.”
    He said residents and travelers through the fire area will likely still see wisps of smoke and other signs of the fire.
“So even though those deep dark pockets are still holding fire, and they're still burning, they can't dry out that top layer enough to get it to move. Will it put up smoke? Yes. You will see little tendrils of smoke. You'll see puffs of smoke on the side of the mountain. They're all over up there. And if you drive through that, through the roads up in there, you'll see them as well. But will they actually get up and move? No, no, they won't do that,” Gearsdorf said. “They won't do that unless we go all the way back to that hot dry weather. Now what's the chances of getting 80 degrees and 25 percent humidity this time of the year? Not very likely.”
    Fire managers suggest several inches of rain across all areas of the Swan Lake Fire are needed before the fire will be identified as “controlled”. And while it won’t bring a season-ending deluge, the front expected tonight might bring up to an inch of rain.