Shanta Creek fire still growing: Fire managers to meet with Funny River folks

Posted: Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Fire managers will meet with Funny River Road residents tonight to provide an update on the Shanta Creek wildfire, which has burned more than 13,000 acres of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge between Tustumena Lake and the community of Funny River.

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PHIL HERMANEK Peninsula Clarion
PHIL HERMANEK Peninsula Clarion
A U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopter is seen. The helicopters were deployed to do water drops on the Shanta Creek fire last week.

Members of the National Incident Management Organization, the agency managing the fire in a limited suppression area of the refuge, will meet with community officials, agency representatives and the public at 7 p.m. in the Funny River Community Center on Pioneer Access Road.

A similar meeting Sunday brought out 230 residents to hear about current fire conditions, the long-range outlook, community protection planning and evacuation planning. No evacuation has been needed to date.

The fire, which was ignited by lightning June 29, grew by about 1,000 acres Sunday afternoon to 13,118 acres, according to Pete Buist, fire information officer.

The fire area is experiencing a moist layer of fog in the morning, which picks up in the afternoon, he said.

"When the relative humidity drops, (the fire) starts putting up large columns of smoke," Buist said.

In addition to a large, double-rotor CH-47 Chinook helicopter, six other helicopters are making water drops on the northern edge of the fire to prevent spread toward Funny River, according to fire officials.

Last week, when the area was experiencing drier, hot weather conditions, two U.S. Army Blackhawk helicopters, two fire-fighting fixed wing amphibious aircraft known as "Ducks" from the Northwest Territories and a fire-retardant dropping Corsair airplane were also deployed for use on containing the fire on the northern edge.'

Buist said the aircraft remain available if needed.

"We have five Type 1 (Hotshot) crews and 11 Alaska Type 2 crews working on the fire," he said. Each Type 1 crew has 20 members and the Type 2 crews have 16 members each.

Crews are creating defensive contingency lines using hand tools and bulldozers within full suppression areas in the refuge as well as on some private property along Funny River Road.

The lines are designed for use if the fire changes direction and moves north toward pirvate land and developed areas, according to a printed statement from the Division of Forestry, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the refuge.

Including managers and information staff, 476 personnel are assigned to the Shanta Creek fire, as of Monday.

Buist said 10 fire trucks from Homer, Seward, Chugiak and Central Mat-Su also are on the Kenai Peninsula assisting Central Emergency Services fire engine companies and fire fighters from the refuge and the Division of Forestry.

A temporary flight restriction remains in place. The ban restricts private aircraft from flying within a five-mile radius of the fire perimeter below an altitude of 5,000 feet. Pilots can contact the Federal Aviation Administration for more information on the restriction. The ban will be in place until further notice.

Fire information is available by calling 260-2338 or 260-2342 between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. or by visiting the refuge Web site at http://kenai.fws.gov and clicking on the Shanta Creek fire link. Questions can be e-mailed to r7shanta@fws.gov.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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