The Funny River wildfire grew to 156,041 acres or 244 square miles by 5 p.m. Sunday.
The fire spotted across the Kenai River Sunday afternoon into the Kenai Keys Road area. Central Emergency Services responded to at least one house fire in the area, according to the Kenai Peninsula Borough Office of Emergency Management.
OEM evacuated Funny River from Mile 7 to Fisherman’s Road. Evacuations began at about 2:40 p.m. Sunday. OEM also issued an evacuation advisory for the end of Feuding Lane to the end of Kenai Keys Road. An advisory means residents should prepare to evacuate.
Kris Eriksen, a public information officer with the National Incident Management Organization, said the evacuation was precautionary due to the dense fuel source — black spruce trees — in the area.
Fire crews were increased Sunday after teams twice stopped the fire from running the Funny River Road community Saturday night.
“It was a lot of work last night in all three areas particularly up in the Funny River area that went really well,” Incident Commander Rob Allen, with the Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team, said Sunday afternoon.
He said the fire spotted over about 5 acres. Air National Guard Black Hawk helicopters came to assist crews with aerial bucket work.
On the opposite side of the blaze, hotshot crews from the southern end of the fire near Tustumena Lake worked to build a line north to meet bulldozers working south.
Burnouts were done near Bear Creek subdivision Saturday night, Allen said.
“That’s looking really good for them,” he said.
The northeastern and southeastern sections of the fire closed the gap between them Sunday, said Bill Queen, with the Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team.
Sunday’s wind was problematic for crews, Queen said. He was in the Funny River Road area Sunday afternoon.
“I just watched tanker drop after tanker drop after tanker drop,” he said
According to the National Weather Service, a south wind of 10 to 15 mph is expected. The forecast calls for rain Monday night.
“If we can hang on to a few of our key areas for the next few days, we’ll be looking pretty good with the predicted weather coming in,” Allen said.
As of 1:30 p.m. Sunday, officials reported about 450 people working on the fire from throughout the U.S. and Canada.
Gov. Sean Parnell attended the afternoon media briefing at the incident command center at Skyview High School. He flew over the fire Sunday and witnessed the efforts of crews.
He said the priority in fighting the fire is resident and firefighter lives as well as protecting property.
“We’re going to support this as a state in every way possible,” he said.
For fire information call OEM at 714-2495 or the incident management team at 714-2484.
Kaylee Osowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.