Burn ban issued for Kenai Peninsula

High-fire danger prompts burn ban this week,

A burn suspension is in effect for the Kenai Peninsula due to high fire danger, high fire activity and limited firefighting resources, according to a special notice from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

The suspension comes as a team of more than 80 fire personnel are working to contain the Loon Lake Fire, about 10 miles northeast of Sterling, which was first reported on Saturday evening and as of Tuesday had grown to just over 100 acres. The fire was caused by lightning in the area and is about 4 miles west of where the Swan Lake Fire was started, also by lightning, in 2019.

A Wednesday update from the Division of Forestry said that the fire is about 30% contained, with the north side of the fire boxed in by Swan Lake. The Alaska Division of Forestry has worked with the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge since Saturday to coordinate response efforts.

“There was no growth outside the perimeter, though there were occasional pockets of dense black spruce that burned in the interior of the fire during the heat of the afternoon. A helicopter assisted crews with bucket drops to prevent spotting outside of the line. … The Midnight Sun Hotshots were reassigned to their home unit in Fairbanks to assist with fires burning in the Interior,” the Wednesday update said.

As of Monday, a Palmer-based air tanker, two water-scooping aircraft based at the Bureau of Land Management’s Alaska Fire Service and two helicopters had all responded to the fire. Additional firefighting support, including the Palmer-based Gannett Glacier Type 2 Initial Attack Crew and the Midnight Sun and Pioneer Peak hotshot crews also had been called in.

“One of the crews will remain engaged on the fireline today but will be available for initial attack on any new, higher priority fires on the Kenai Peninsula. With high temperatures and low humidities today, surface fuels are critically dry in many areas which could lead to rapid rates of fire spread on new starts,” the update says.

A Temporary Flight Restriction has also been issued over the fire to keep the skies safe for aircraft responding to the fire. Two helicopters, an air tanker and two water-scooping aircraft have all helped respond to the fire. The Division of Forestry said Tuesday that an additional helicopter arrived and will shuttle in supplies to firefighters, such as hose, pumps, fuel and fresh food boxes.

More information about the Loon Lake Fire can be found at akfireinfo.com.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.