Cooler temperatures, higher humidity help slow Swan Lake Fire growth

The Swan Lake Fire creeps up a mountain East of Sterling, Alaska. (Randall Rishe / NWIMT 13)

COOPER LANDING, Alaska (KTUU) - Cooler temperatures and higher humidity helped reduce intensity and slow growth of the Swan Lake Fire Wednesday.

"The humidities are going to come up. When we get below 30 percent, that's when we start seeing our very active fire behavior. When it comes up into that 40 to 50 percent as a minimum, that's good for us. That's good firefighting weather right there," Robert Burnside, Fire Behavior Analyst for the incident told residents at a community meeting in Cooper Landing Wednesday evening.

The perimeter of the fire has grown into the mountains. While the terrain is more difficult for crews to access, helicopters have been able to drop water on the fire, and the change in fuel types that comes with the terrain and elevation has slowed the fire's growth.

"The fire essentially moved out of the flat plateau once it hit the Kenai wilderness moving toward the Chugach. We got into some really interesting, difficult topography features," Eric Riener, Operations Section Chief said.

The fire has surpassed 100,000 acres and has grown to an area where the fuels are hardwoods, tundra and alpine vegetation, all of which are less flammable than the black spruce that has fueled much of the fire thus far.

Although the fire is moving more slowly, crews are working to strengthen existing fuel breaks created by hiking trails and forest service roads.

"If the fire were to move to the south and east, we have to use the Resurrection Trail as a containment feature. There's an old forest service road coming out here, an indirect line. And the indirect line will be in place in 24 to 48 hours. What that will provide is that it provides a big buffer before it gets into the community of Cooper Landing."

Fire managers said they are aware that more traffic is expected along the Sterling Highway now that the Kenai dipnet fishery is open, but leaders told the crowd that they do not expect to have to close the highway again.

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