Flight restriction issued over Loon Lake Fire, now 15% contained

The fire was first reported on Saturday evening.

This photo taken at 11:30 a.m. today, Monday, June 14, reveals little smoke rising from the Loon Lake Fire following Sunday’s aerial attack by water and retardant bombing aircraft. The fire denoted by the burned area at the edge of the lake. (Jason Jordet/Division of Forestry Air Attack)

This photo taken at 11:30 a.m. today, Monday, June 14, reveals little smoke rising from the Loon Lake Fire following Sunday’s aerial attack by water and retardant bombing aircraft. The fire denoted by the burned area at the edge of the lake. (Jason Jordet/Division of Forestry Air Attack)

The Loon Lake Fire burning northeast of Sterling is 15% contained with more firefighters en route to help fighting efforts, the Alaska Division of Forestry reported Monday. A Temporary Flight Restriction has also been issued for the area to help keep airways safe for responding aircraft.

The fire, which was caused by lightning in the area, was first reported on Saturday night in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, near the same area where the Swan Lake Fire started in 2019.

The Division of Forestry said the fire, which had been reduced to 75 acres on Monday, was producing “very little” smoke.

A helicopter deployed by the Kenai/Kodiak Area Forestry station in Soldotna confirmed Saturday the presence of a 2-acre fire “creeping and smoldering” in spruce growth with a 100% active perimeter.

Firefighters arrived at the scene of the fire at around 11 p.m. on Saturday and worked until about 2 a.m. on Sunday morning, returning to the fireline at about 8 a.m. on Sunday, at which point the fire had grown to about 5.8 acres. They worked to get a hose lay around the fire, which was moving east toward Swan Lake, and to chase spot fires near the head of the blaze.

The Division of Forestry reported late Sunday that the fire had grown to 150 acres, and that fire activity became more active over the course of the day, with a smoke column from the fire visible from the Sterling Highway.

Coordinated water and fire retardant drops had “significantly reduced” the fire’s behavior by Sunday evening, Forestry 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 have also been called in.

Moving forward, the Division of Forestry said its top priority is preventing the spread of fire to Sterling.

“The primary focus at this point is securing the south flank to prevent spread toward the community of Sterling and the Sterling Highway,” a Monday Division of Forestry update says.

Though the location of the fire means it falls under the jurisdiction of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, the refuge has worked with the state in response efforts. As of Monday, refuge managers have decided to take “100 percent suppression” efforts on the fire and are coordinating with the Division of Forestry to create a “suppression plan” for the fire.

Updates on the Loon Lake Fire can be found at akfireinfo.com.

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

These two pictures of the Loon Lake Fire taken on Sunday, June 13, 2021, show the impact of water and retardant drops on the fire Sunday afternoon by aircraft. The photo on the left was taken at 3 p.m. prior to the aerial assault and the photo on the right was taken at 7 p.m. following the water and retardant drops. The red lines are retardant that was dropped around the fire. (Photos by Jason Jordet/Division of Forestry Air Attack)

These two pictures of the Loon Lake Fire taken on Sunday, June 13, 2021, show the impact of water and retardant drops on the fire Sunday afternoon by aircraft. The photo on the left was taken at 3 p.m. prior to the aerial assault and the photo on the right was taken at 7 p.m. following the water and retardant drops. The red lines are retardant that was dropped around the fire. (Photos by Jason Jordet/Division of Forestry Air Attack)

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