Swan Lake Fire Update
A recent news article states that the swan lake fire is only 5% contained. The thorn creek fire, northwest of Thompson Falls, is also 5% contained, but continues to burn in slash and timber. In addition to the swan lake fire, another large wildfire near Thompson Falls is currently burning 17,685 acres. There is no word yet on the cause of these two large fires, but the US Forest Service and the USDA Forest Service are both investigating the situation.
swan lake fire is 5% contained
As of Monday, the Swan Lake Fire is still only 5% contained. The fire has burned over 70,000 acres and is spread through black spruce. Because of winds, the fire has reached within two miles of Sterling Highway. Efforts to halt its progression toward the city have been made by fire crews, but delays are expected. It is still necessary to leave plenty of space between your home and the fire line.
The United States Fish and Wildlife Service and USDA Forest Service have been leading efforts to contain the fire. Other agencies helping firefighters and assessing the threat are the Kenai Peninsula Borough, Cooper Landing Volunteer Fire Department, Alaska State Troopers, and the Department of Fish and Game. Fire officials have released video reports of progress made by firefighters. Meanwhile, the Fire Information Center offers daily updates on the fire. The fire’s containment level will be determined by the end of this week.
The fire started on June 5, 2019 in the federal Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. It was under a fire management plan soon after ignition. It was designed to protect values at risk but also to allow it to spread naturally in areas that would not be at risk. It was only five percent contained as of this writing. The fire is still affecting homes, infrastructure, and moose research centers. But it’s still a significant fire that threatens more than 160 square miles.
The fire is still spreading through the forest, but the fire has been slowed by a firefighting operation. During the night, fire crews were able to identify a small area that had been burned overnight. It then quickly spread through wood chips and beetle kill timber. On Sunday, a half-acre burn also occurred in Nikiski. The fire has been 5% contained as of Tuesday afternoon. On Wednesday, firefighters also squelched a fire in the town of Surprise Creek. The fire has crossed the Resurrection Pass trail.
thorn creek fire northwest of Thompson Falls is estimated at 17,685 acres
The Thorne Creek fire, about five miles north of Thompson Falls, is now at least 15 percent contained, with an evacuation order in effect for residents in the area. The fire began after lightning struck nearby, and is now estimated to be at least 17,685 acres in size. As of Tuesday morning, firefighters have put out about 2,000 acres. They are missing some key resources and personnel that are needed to put out the blaze.
The blaze has caused extensive damage in the region. At last count, the fire was responsible for the destruction of about 20 homes, and is now 20% contained. The fire is near Kilbrennan Lake, which has been evacuated and is expected to spread to the Gunsight Mountain. As of Tuesday evening, firefighters are focused on minimizing damage to private properties. They are using pumps and digging firelines by hand and conducting burnouts adjacent to roadways. Despite the current fire conditions, firefighters are facing a major challenge in containment efforts: extremely dry vegetation.
The fire is currently at its eastern perimeter. Firefighters are working along Cougar Peak Road to reinforce fire lines and cool them with aircraft water. Crews working on the eastern flank are establishing a continuous fuel break and scouting for alternate control features. Meanwhile, firefighters working on the western and southern flanks will be coordinating efforts to control spot fires and secure the indirect fire line. If it is safe to do so, firing operations are expected on the southern flank.
Despite the heavy pressure on the water system, the thorn creek fire has now burned close to 3,800 acres and is still rapidly expanding. Residents have been advised to keep up with their scheduled watering – a crucial part in avoiding unnecessary property damage. The fire is threatening homes and businesses in the area. If you live in one of the affected areas, be sure to follow your watering schedule as instructed by your city’s emergency management agency.
swan lake fire continues to burn in thick black spruce forest
The Swan Lake Fire, which started Saturday night in a thick black spruce forest about half a mile from the shore, is still active today. It is a lightning-caused wildfire and firefighting efforts are continuing to strengthen containment lines. Firefighters continue to use water drops and fire retardant to contain the blaze, and have built about 15% of a containment line around its perimeter. Several public use cabins are being impacted, as is the ENSTAR natural gas pipeline infrastructure.
The swan lake fire continues to burn in the thick black spruce forest of Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, increasing by nearly 1,000 acres since last Tuesday. The fire, which was sparked by lightning last Wednesday, is burning in an area that has minimal protection from wildfires. It will burn in black spruce forests, which are highly flammable. Firefighters will focus on protecting public use cabins and ENSTAR pipeline, which run through the backcountry.
The resilience of black spruce forests to fire differs between regions and continents, and fire severity in one region can also affect forest processes in another. In western North America, climate change and increasing wildfire activity may threaten the dominant role of black spruce, and the loss of black spruce will affect the function of ecosystems. Changing forest composition will impact carbon sequestration, water and energy fluxes, and wildlife habitat.
On Saturday, firefighters in the Sterling community tested fire lines and mowed down pockets of black spruce. On Sunday, they will test the fire lines once more. Fire crews on the south side of the fire cleaned up burn debris and began restoration of wildlife habitat. Heavy equipment operators will be monitoring traffic and smoke flare ups for the rest of the day. A type 3 incident management team will continue to monitor the situation until it reaches a level where it will not hinder future firefighting efforts.
Black spruce forests are resilient to fire, but climate change is a factor in their resilience. Warmer climates have accelerated the warming of northern regions. And while black spruce trees have historically benefited from forest fires, today we are witnessing more intense forest fires than ever. Besides being great sources of carbon sequestration, black spruce forests also cool forests and slow the decomposition of organic matter.
swan lake fire is burning in slash and timber
The Swan Lake fire started on June 5, in the Dave Spencer Wilderness unit of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. The fire’s management plan was developed immediately after the fire broke out, allowing for the fire to spread naturally where no values were threatened. Firefighting efforts continued on Saturday as the weather forecast called for hot and dry conditions and future lightning. Firefighting aircraft were called in to drop water on the growing flames.
On July 15, the fire had burned more than 100,000 acres. It was staffed with 440 personnel. However, the warming trend caused scattered hot spots along control lines. In addition, a series of rain events, including a 2-inch rainfall, held all the containment lines. This rain greatly reduced fire activity and arrested growth. Firefighters cut back their staff to contain the fire. Still, smoke and ash may be visible inside the perimeter until significant precipitation is received.
A BAER team also analyzed the impacts of the Swan Lake fire. The assessment focused on the extent to which changes in the soil and watershed characteristics could result in unsafe conditions for humans or critical resources downstream. The main concern was the safety of the public and the infrastructure of the Sterling Highway. Additionally, a steep slope along the highway may pose instability concerns. This analysis will help to determine if federal land emergency actions are required.
As of the weekend, the Swan Lake fire is estimated to be over 50 thousand acres in size. Firefighters are attempting to contain it by using fire suppression and bucket drops. While firefighters continue to build a line around the perimeter of the fire, they are relying on air support for fire retardant. Tonight’s weather is predicted to be mostly cloudy with temperatures ranging from 48 to 52 degrees. Relative humidity will increase to 67 percent and southwest winds will be between two and four mph. However, the weather pattern predicts a drying trend over the next couple of days.