WORST AIR IN WESTERN HEMISPHERE; TRAVEL TO KENAI BY ROAD IS DIFFICULT
Southcentral Alaska residents don’t need to be told: The air quality is — pardoned the technical word here — horrible.
At 7:15 am this morning, heavy smoke drifted across the entire region on one of the worst air quality days, as shown in the photo above taken of Anchorage from an Alaska Airlines jet heading north.
According to purpleair.com, which tracks real-time air quality around the world, Southcentral ranks the worst in the Western Hemisphere at this time, and among the top five worst air in the world this morning, even exceeding Chinese industrial cities.
Here is the latest update on the Swan Lake Fire from the Kenai Borough Office of Emergency Management:
SWAN LAKE FIRE
New comprehensive area closure orders have been issued for public lands surrounding and including the burned area. A community meeting will be held at the Sterling Community Center on Friday, Aug. 30 at at 6 pm.
Fire suppression activities and dense smoke make travel on the Sterling Highway between Sterling, Alaska and Cooper Landing hazardous, and there are travel delays. Authorities are discouraging use of this section of the highway, if possible. Motorists who choose to travel through the fire area should be prepared for potentially lengthy delays by assuring their vehicle has ample fuel and carrying food and water for occupants. Do not stop along the highway within the fire area. The eastern end of travel restrictions has moved to milepost 40 north of the junction with the Seward Highway. The Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management has the latest information at kpboem.com, on Facebook at KPB Alerts and at their call center at 907-262-INFO (4636).
Cooper Landing: An additional strike team of four engines and one hotshot crew is working from 10:00 am to midnight around Cooper Landing to bolster resources through the more active afternoon and evening hours. They join the other firefighters to continue reducing hazardous fuels around structures, install water sprinklers, and to protect the power line corridor.
Heavy smoke caused poor visibility that significantly limited yesterday’s air operations. The most active portion of the fire was on the eastern flank in the Juneau Creek drainage. It moved slowly, down-slope to the south as well up-valley to the north on the Resurrection Trail. While this growth does not yet present an immediate concern for Cooper Landing, fire managers are evaluating strategies for limiting further spread. Rugged terrain and difficult access present challenges in those areas. Today, three crews are hiking up the drainage to begin constructing new containment lines to arrest further spread.
Wednesday night’s public meeting in Cooper Landing attracted about 200 people to the school and another estimated 360 on Facebook Live. Fire managers and local officials shared information about suppression progress and plans as well as Sterling Highway travel restrictions and contingency plans should evacuations be needed.
Cooper Landing remains in a SET status due to fire activity. All residents should be SET (fully prepared) to evacuate if the situation warrants. If you feel uncomfortable or need additional time, consider leaving before an evacuation notice. The Cooper Landing School is also closed until at least Sept. 3.
Sterling: The southwestern corner of the fire experienced some increased activity near, but inside, containment lines. Work will continue to cool this area as well as securing the perimeter northward to the Sterling Highway by extinguishing any remaining burning or smoldering fuels adjacent to the containment lines. Structure protection on the western flank is effectively in place.
The Sterling neighborhoods east of Feuding Lane and east of Adkins Road remain in a READY status. A READY notification means residents should be preparing for a potential evacuation should the threat level increase.
Weather: High pressure will persist over the fire for the next 48 hours providing very similar conditions to yesterday—light winds, warm temperatures and moderately low relative humidity. A low-pressure storm system is expected to move inland on Saturday and will likely bring cooler temperatures with precipitation. Gusty winds are predicted for Sunday afternoon.
Closures: The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and the Chugach National Forest have issued coordinated, comprehensive area closures for public lands surrounding and including the Swan Lake Fire. These orders will incorporate the previous individual closures as well as new restrictions on public entry and use. The orders and accompanying maps are available at local U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Chugach National Forest offices and online at kpboem.com.
Temporary Flight Restrictions (TFR): A TFR is in place for air space over the Swan Lake Fire (9/7677 NOTAM). The TFR includes unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS), or drones, as well. Flying drones near wildfires could cause injury or death to firefighters as a result of a mid-air collision with tactical firefighting aircraft.