Firefighters were able to complete some key objectives on the Swan Lake fire burning on the Kenai Peninsula Thursday.
More than 500 personnel were working around the clock this week, conducting back burns along the Sterling highway in order to keep the fire from the road corridor and away from Homer Electric Association transmission lines. Dan Nelson runs the Kenai Peninsula Borough’s Office of Emergency Management. He says crews are close to containing as much of the fire as they had planned.
“Currently, 20 percent of the fire they’re trying to contain has been contained. However, it’s important to recognize that the objective for containment is only 28 percent. The reason for this is that the values at risk are the Sterling community and the southern part near the highway. The north and eastern parts, within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, will continue to burn for the foreseeable future.”
The overall goal since the fire began after a lightning strike on June 5th has been to let it burn through as much Kenai National Wildlife Refuge land as possible, where a major fire hasn’t occurred since 1947. State Division of Forestry spokesperson Emery Johnson says crews will continue mopping up closer to town over the weekend, and could begin rotating out soon.
“We have the potential for kind of seeing everything ramping down on the edge on the south side. And since the Refuge wants to introduce fire to its landscape due to the fuels out here and the history of the Refuge not burning for a substantial number of years, the crews will eventually time out and you’ll see less of an impact from us and the operations.”
The Swan Lake fire is currently estimated at 56,000 acres or about 87 square miles. A burn suspension is currently in effect for the Kenai Peninsula and air quality advisories remain active as smoke will keep being produced by the fire as it runs east into the Kenai mountains.