Multiple fires on the Kenai are continuing to produce smoky conditions and an air quality advisory remains in effect through at least Friday.
A new incident management team is now in place and has done its first round of community meetings, in both Cooper Landing and Sterling, where more than 100 residents turned out. Operations Chief Rocky Gilbert from the Great Basin management team explained why the highway is being closed, as the fire continues to burn in the right-of-way on both sides. It’s grown by more than 40,000 acres this week to a total of 142,000.
“We had some helicopter operations taking place that were trying to protect power poles right along the highway. We had several firefighters and engines along the highway plus we helicopters that were dipping on one side of the highway and dropping on the other side of the highway to protect those power poles.”
Crews will be on the ground again today along with heavy equipment cutting in more fire lines and laying hose on the west edge of the fire, east of Sterling where neighborhoods are told to be in a ready status. On the other end, firefighters are being deployed to south side of the Kenai river to keep the fire from moving into Cooper Landing from the south.
“They’re also working on opening a line along the Resurrection Trail," Gilbert said. "That trail was originally used a month ago for some of the containment features and so we have a back up plan there, we’re going to continue to open that up. We’re going to get hose, maybe seven, eight miles of hose and pumps. Again, if fire does make a run at that trail, we’ll have folks in place ready to stop fire, intending to keep fire from impacting the north of Cooper Landing.”
The Kenai Peninsula Borough has issued a disaster declaration that includes all of the unincorporated borough because of the fires from Homer to Cooper Landing. Intermittent road closures are expected to continue today, based on fire behavior and the movement of firefighting crews. No evacuation orders have been made. The Great Basin team is also taking over on the North Fork and Caribou Lake fires on the southern Peninsula. North Fork is estimated at 60 acres and 50 percent contained. Caribou Lake is approximately 800 acres and is ten percent contained.