Fire keeps Kenai River closed

Posted: Thursday, July 08, 2004

The wildfire burning along the Kenai River Trail has charred 50 acres above the Kenai River canyon. But firefighters hoped to have the fire contained Wednesday evening.

"The estimated (time of) containment is a goal," Sharon Roesch of the Alaska Division of Forestry in Soldotna said Wednesday afternoon.

Two air tankers and three helicopters dropped an estimated 40,000 to 50,000 gallons of water on the fire Tuesday. The water extinguished enough of the fire's two-foot high flames that no air tankers and only one helicopter were assigned Wednesday to assist the 35 personnel fighting the fire.

However, an air tanker and National Guard Black Hawk helicopter based in Palmer were available in case the fire flared up.

"If (fire officials) start to see some radical fire behavior, they'll call for tankers," Roesch said.

Firefighters on the ground have been working to establish a secure perimeter using a fire hose running from a portable water holding tank on Skilak Lake Loop Road. The hose was able to reach about a quarter of the fire line Wednesday.

Although firefighters were making progress at the perimeter of the fire Wednesday, areas in the interior were still burning hot, especially below ground.

"There are some deep pockets of the fire burning still. Anywhere it's getting into roots, it's burning deep," Roesch said. "It takes a lot of water to put that out."

The Kenai River remained closed Wednesday between Jim's Landing and Skilak Lake. Officials hope to reopen the river today, but only if fire-fighting helicopters no longer need to dip water from the river.

Skilak Lake Loop Road also remained closed Wednesday between Jim's Landing and the Hidden Lake campground. However, both facilities still were open to the public.

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