Containment efforts keep Swan Lake Fire away from communities

The Swan Lake Fire on Wednesday, June 12, 2019. (Photo by Kale Casey/Alaska Division of Forestry)

Fire crews are making progress in ensuring the Swan Lake Fire stays far away from people and infrastructure.

The fire, burning in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, was sparked by lightning in early June. It’s grown to over 100,000 acres.

Fire fighters are not trying to put out the whole blaze. To the north, crews are letting the fire burn naturally.

Suppression efforts are focused on the southern section of the fire, to protect nearby communities.

And crews now have 50% of that portion of the fire contained. Steven Bekkerus is a public information officer for the Swan Lake Fire. He says environmental factors, paired with active suppression efforts, are contributing to the progress.

“And there are still crews out there working to make sure it doesn’t grow,” Bekkerus said. “The weather and terrain have helped. It has cooled off from where it was a couple weeks ago. But also the fire is reaching those upper limits, those upper elevations where there just isn’t the fuel to burn.”

Right now, Bekkerus says there is a lot of helicopter activity along the Sterling Highway, near Upper Jean Lake. He asks drivers in the area to be particularly careful.

“We don’t want to have them out there working and have them hit by people watching the helicopter and fire operations trying to get a good picture,” Bekkerus said. “That’s not worth somebody’s life.”

Bekkerus says fire growth has mostly stalled in the last few days. But, he says the area is still dry, and fire activity is expected to pick up again as temperatures warm.

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