Swan Lake fire

There are 305 personnel fighting the Swan Lake Fire burning between Sterling and Cooper Landing. The blaze has not changed in size appreciably in a couple of weeks, standing at 163,714 acres. Containment is 48 percent.

Northern Rockies Incident Management Team 4 Commander Rick Connell said work is still being done to reduce hot spots on the Resurrection and Fuller Lakes trails and cleaning up in and around Cooper Landing.

Alaska Division of Forestry

         Yesterday’s sunshine and warm weather sparked some fire activity on the Swan Lake Fire but the majority was well inside the fire perimeter. Some fire activity was noted near the north shore of Skilak Lake on the southern end of the fire, southeast of the Upper Skilak Lake Campground.

Crews continue to “mop up” around recreation sites within the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area and along the loop road into the area.

The Swan Lake Fire has burned on the Central Kenai Peninsula for four months, occasionally closing the Sterling Highway and the Upper Kenai River. On this week's Kenai Conversation, host Jay Barrett talks with Great Basin Type 1 Public Information Officer Brian Scott and Alaska Division of Forestry PIO Andy Alexandrou about the resurgence of the fire, how it's being fought, and what citizens can do to minimize future danger.

Alaska Division of Forestry


A cool weekend with some scattered rain showers helped slow the progress of the Swan Lake fire. Total acreage count remained steady over the weekend at about 160,000 and more than 700 personnel remain on the fire.

        An emergency order banning all open burning may have left some firefighters staying in camps in more remote parts of the Swan Lake Fire to eat cold rations and wear an extra sweater in the sleeping bag.

The burn ban, affecting the entirety of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, was strict enough that even cooking and warming campfires in crew camps were banned.

Great Basin Incident Management Team


The Swan Lake fire is closing in on the three month mark, and now more than 700 personnel are on the scene, working to fully extinguish it.

While fire and smoke across the Sterling Highway near Cooper Landing has occasionally forced road closures to motor vehicle traffic, when the Swan Lake Fire reached the Upper Kenai River, it was closed to boat traffic, and has yet to reopen.
Guides who work the Upper Kenai are usually very busy this time of year, according to Dennis Randa because it’s when the trout are feasting on sockeye salmon eggs.

The contingent battling the Swan Lake Fire is now at its highest level — even more than in July when over 500 firefighters were assigned to the blaze. Today, there are 671, with a half-dozen helicopters. Before flaring up a week and a half ago, about 20 firefighters remained.

Residents of Cooper Landing remain in the Level-2-Ready alert level for evacuation for a third day.

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.


Emergency officials have developed a transportation plan as firefighting efforts continue to close the Sterling highway for long stretches.

Alaska Division of Forestry

         The resurgent Swan Lake Fire continues to burn south of the Sterling Highway, within the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area. As of Sunday night, the fire measured 150,264 acres burned.

Temporary delays of the Sterling Highway remain possible. Closure information is available at 511.alaska.gov, kpoem.com, and on Facebook at KPB Alerts. Heavy firefighting equipment will be on the highway. Driving with more caution than normal while on the highway is advised.

        While students returned to classes on Tuesday at most Kenai Peninsula public schools, student athletes have been training and practicing for weeks in preparation for the upcoming season. Now, however, the Swan Lake Fire has claimed at least two early-season events, with more cancellations looming.

In an online announcement Wednesday Superintendent John O'Brien cancelled all outdoor athletics hosted by Kenai Peninsula Borough schools until further notice.

According to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management, the traffic on the Sterling Highway is flowing once again. The OEM advises travelers that fire activity can change rapidly and delays can still occur at any time so be prepared for a long delay.

If you must travel, they recommend a full tank of fuel for your vehicle, and to bring water, snacks and other essential items with you.

Alaska Division of Forestry

          The Sterling Highway was closed again this morning, but smoke and flames from the Swan Lake Fire could change that.

Traffic moved in both directions on the Sterling through the Upper Kenai River corridor yesterday where fire encroached over the weekend, but the DOT closed it again this morning because of dense smoke and flames near the roadway.

Jade Gamble/Kenai Peninsula Borough


The Swan Lake fire on the Kenai Peninsula continues to delay traffic, with hours-long stops on the Sterling Highway near Cooper Landing. A new management team is set to be in place Wednesday.



With the multiple closures of the Sterling Highway since Sunday morning, many motorists found themselves stranded in Cooper Landing. After all, a 15-mile back-up stretched east from there by Monday morning.
    That captive audience actually made for a pretty good day for Wildman’s, Cooper Landing’s “everything” store.
    “We had a lot of people stop in. It was a good day yesterday,” said owner Cheryl James. “We had several people sleeping in our parking lot. There were people in line out there for 12 hours waiting to go through.”

      After closing again Monday night due to increased wildfire activity and dense smoke along the Sterling Highway west of Cooper Landing, the authorities opened one lane at 10 o'clock this morning.

Pilot cars will escort 50 cars at a time in alternating directions of the 24-mile affected stretch of highway between mileposts 53 and 77. Cars are reportedly backed up for several miles on both sides of the closure.

Alaska Division of Forestry

         The Sterling Highway was closed again overnight and this morning after smoke and fire halted traffic yesterday evening.

Both lanes of traffic between Adkins Road at mile 77 and the intersection of Resurrection Pass Trail at the Sterling Highway at mile 53 remain halted.

Fire activity and the related dense smoke are expected to continue for some time, and the situation could last through well into today (Tuesday), according to authorities.

The Swan Lake Fire, which erupted with activity Saturday night, crossed the Sterling Highway and reached Skilak Lake by Sunday evening. The fire crossed the Upper Kenai River near the Kenai River Trail.
The Sterling Highway closed from mile 53 to 75 midday Sunday, but reopened to two-way traffic at noon today. Traffic heading south on the Sterling Highway Sunday was backed up a reported 15 miles yesterday.
Also closed is the Upper Kenai River between Skilak and Kenai lakes.

The Swan Lake Fire was almost out when strong winds whipped it back to life Saturday night. Hot spots flared up and the fire jumped the Sterling Highway at Milepost 60 around 2 a.m. Sunday. The wind-driven blaze is exhibiting fast-paced crown-burning activity, according to Mike Hill with the Swan Lake Incident Command.
    The fire has caused the closure of the Sterling Highway from miles 58 to 75, as well as Skilak Loop Road due to encroaching flames and dense smoke. The Kenai River from Kenai Lake to Skilak Lake is also closed.

Alaska Div. Forestry

As predicted, a cold front moving onto the Kenai Peninsula from the north, bringing with it strong winds and dry air, has literally fanned the embers of the Swan Lake Fire back into life. The weather caught the firefighters with less than 20 personnel staffed to the fire. At its peak, over 500 firefighters battled the blaze.
    Residents of Cooper Landing were issued a Level 1 (least serious) Evacuation Alert to be ready to leave, in case one is needed.

Air quality deteriorated overnight and by Saturday morning was reported to be at hazardous levels in Cooper Landing because of increased smoke from the Swan Lake Fire.
    Brentwood Reid, the incident commander on the fire, said it flared up in the Thurman, Mystery, and Dike creek drainages due to a cold weather front moving over the peninsula from the north, which is bringing with it winds as high as 30 mph.

The National Weather Service has issued a Fire Weather Watch for the interior of the Central Kenai Peninsula for parts of this weekend.
    Originally given for today (Friday), the watch, now for Saturday, is in response to expected hot, dry, and windy conditions. North winds with gusts 30 to 45 mph, relative humidity as low as 25 percent, and high temperatures in the 70s are expected.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

The 160-square-mile Swan Lake Fire that scorched the black spruce forest and muskeg northeast of Sterling this summer is still holding on. Only 16 firefighters are currently assigned to Swan Lake, most in reseeding and repair work, however helicopters are still in use to cool off hot spots that pop up.
This week several such flare-ups occurred on the hillside above the Sterling Highway near Upper Jean Lake and the Skyline Trail.

        Hikers, campers, picnickers and outdoors-people of all stripes can rejoice -- many popular and beloved hiking trails, campgrounds and picnic spots that were closed because of the threat of the Swan Lake Fire, have reopened.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge opened up the campgrounds off the Sterling Highway, the Fuller Lakes Trail and the ever-popular Skyline Trail.

Meanwhile, the Chugach National Forest reopened the Resurrection Trail and the accompanying cabins along the way.