Dry conditions and high winds from the north cause the Swan Lake Fire to jump the Sterling Highway at Milepost 60 on Saturday. At this writing, the highway is closed from Mile 53 to Mile 75 and crews are on the road.
The Alaska Fire Center, an interagency information group, said fire grew in the Thurman Creek, the Mystery Creek, and Dike Creek drainages. These conditions are forecasted to last throughout the weekend with expected wind gusts up to 21 miles per hour.
Travelers who are trying to get to and from Kenai have said that booking flights has been a challenge.
The Upper Kenai River is closed to all public use in Alaska State Parks due to the fire. Kenai National Wildlife Refuge has evacuated Jim’s Landing and the Hidden Lake campground, and closed the Russian River Ferry service. Chugach National Forest has closed the Russian River campground and area public use cabins. The fire is expected to reach the Kenai River.
The closure includes the Kenai River Special Management Area between the Cooper Landing state boat launch and where the river enters Skilak Lake, to all boating activity, effective immediately.
The purpose of this closure is to protect public safety by prohibiting any boating on the Kenai River during this fire, the Bureau of Land Management said, and was requested by the Incident Management Team.
The McKinley Fire to the north has jumped from the east to the west side the Parks Highway near Mile 88. The Alaska Division of Forestry ordered an evacuation for both sides of the highway from Mileposts 82 to 91. All residents in that area were told leave their homes immediately.
Additional evacuations are anticipated and residents in the area should monitor the fire’s progress via social media, the agency said. The wind-driven fire is moving very rapidly and the situation is evolving just as fast.
Northbound traffic is being stopped at milepost 70 due to concerns for public safety. Parks Highway between Mileposts 83-93 is closed indefinitely. People are advised to stay away from the area.
Firefighters with state forestry and local fire departments are working to protect structures in the area of the fire and alert residents to the urgency of the situation.
A shelter on the south side of the road closure has been moved to the Menard Sports Complex in Wasilla at 1001 S. Clapp St. in Wasilla.
To check on road closures, to to the 511 website managed by the Department of Transportation.