Swan Lake Fire grows to 3,500 acres

The Swan Lake Fire burns north of Sterling.
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ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The Swan Lake Fire grew about 1,000 acres over the last twenty-four hours, causing smoke warnings along the Sterling Highway. Luckily, winds and some light rain last night are keeping the worst air and fire dangers away from populated areas.

“Right now there is no threat to Sterling,” said Sarah Saarloos, a fire information officer for the Division of Forestry.

The fire is 2.7 miles away from the Sterling Highway, and 5.5 miles from the community of Sterling. It is currently estimated at 3,500 acres, based on a flyover Monday.

Winds blew to the north and west, away from the populated areas, which has also kept the particulate danger to a minimum. Currently, there are no air advisories for the area.

The smoke has become a bigger concern for highway drivers.

Saarloos said that there are signs posted along the highway from mileposts 65 to 70 of the Sterling Highway--just south of the popular Russian River fishing spot--warning of low visibility for drivers.

Still, she said that favorable conditions have prevented worse conditions from developing.

“Because of that light rain the fire really has slowed down,” she said. “Yesterday it did grow a lot because the wind picked up, but then we got a little bit of rain.”

Still, she said that managers are monitoring the risks closely.

“You know, that can change when we get cooler air at night, the smoke can lay down,” she said. Drivers can check the website 511.alaska.gov or call 5-1-1 for up-to-date highway information.

Saarloos said that the type of vegetation is a contributing factor to the heavy smoke that was visible from Anchorage on Tuesday evening.

“It is burning black spruce, which produces a lot of smoke and so that is a concern,” said Saarloos.

Because it’s in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, there is no property or lives at risk. Instead, fire managers are focused on monitoring--and letting nature run its course.

“The main objectives for this fire is to really kind of use it to mitigate wildland fire hazards in the future and also to enhance wildlife habitat,” Saarloos said.

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