Fire nearly contained; river open

Posted: Friday, July 09, 2004

Temperatures reaching as high as 89 degrees Wednesday sent one firefighter battling the Kenai River Trail fire to the hospital suffering from heat exhaustion, the Alaska Division of Forestry reported Thursday.

The firefighter, who is from western Alaska, was not named. He spent the night at Central Peninsula General Hospital and was released Thursday morning to return to work, according to a forestry press release.

The fire, which began Monday, is located south of Skilak Lake Loop Road above the Kenai River Canyon and is estimated to cover approximately 50 acres. By Thursday afternoon, fire crews had connected hoses along three sides of the fire. The fourth side is the Kenai River.

According to Ric Plate, fire management officer in Soldotna, firefighters vigorously attacked the blaze from the ground and air as soon as possible in an effort to keep it more or less confined. Much of the state's firefighting resources are engaged on fires in the Interior, he said.

On Wednesday, the division reported the fire was burning deep in the ground, backing down steep and rugged terrain toward the Kenai River.

By then, the air tanker in use on Monday had been replaced by a helicopter, which was dipping water from the river to drench isolated hot spots. It also was mapping the size of the fire using portable Global Positioning System gear. The GPS data was turned over to the forestry division late Thursday afternoon, Plate said.

As of about noon Thursday, the helicopter was on standby and the Kenai River was opened to boats, but Skilak Lake Loop Road remained closed from Jim's Landing to Hidden Lake Campground and the air space over the fire was closed to aircraft not engaged in fighting the fire for a 5-mile radius and up to 3,000 feet.

Central Emergency Services was tanking water from Hidden Lake to a Fold-A-Tank, a portable storage tank located on Skilak Lake Loop Road. From there, hoses carried water downhill to the fire.

Plate said he expected the fire would be called "contained" by Thursday evening and designated "under control" about midnight.

The cause of the fire remains under investigation.

Forestry reported that the fire danger is extreme in parts of the Kenai Peninsula, which has received no substantial rain since June 17. Dry conditions and northeast winds are expected to continue. Campers are being warned to be very cautious with fire. Burn permits have been temporarily suspended.

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