Firefighting crews have stopped the southward growth of the 70,000-acre Swan Lake Fire along a line north of the Sterling Highway. The fire continues to burn freely deep in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and Wilderness in areas that have not seen extensive wildland fires for decades.
The fire has not yet jumped the East Fork Moose River and has been halted on a westward a containment line north of the Enstar natural gas pipeline that runs through the center of the fire area. Together those obstacles stand between the fire and the community of Sterling.
At the end of last week, the fire swept quickly through the area between the highway and the river. This growth is attributable in part to strategic burning by firefighters, who have been igniting select areas ahead of the main body of the fire to slow its progress towards developed areas.
The fire produced long delays in travel to and from the western Kenai Peninsula last week, but fire managers anticipate better travel conditions this week. Travelers are advised to drive carefully and to watch for firefighters and construction workers.
In Seward, smoke from the fire continues to blow into Resurrection Bay, frequently obscuring major landmarks like Mount Alice.
The incident management team has described the fire as an overall benefit to the landscape as long as it remains confined to uninhabited areas.
“Smoke remains a concern, yet the ﬁre brings a big beneﬁt of long-term reduction of future wildﬁre risk to Sterling and neighboring communities,” the team said in a daily update on the fire. “The Swan Lake Fire is burning in a mosaic pattern, removing hazardous black spruce and providing for a more fire-resilient landscape in the future.”
The Swan Lake Fire remains the largest active fire in the state, followed by the Shovel Creek Fire near Fairbanks.