Anne Martin, left, as her mother Marilyn Wheeless photographs dense smoke from the Fox Creek wildfire above the Kenai River flats in Kenai Friday night. The ash-filled smoke was thick enough to trigger street lights to come on.
Photo by M. Scott Moon
Fire suppression efforts continue on the Fox Creek Fire, which has transformed more than 31,100 acres of beetle-killed and black spruce forest to scorched earth within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.
The fire, first reported Monday and believed to be the result of a lightning strike, has been allowed to grow from its initial 400 acres since it was located within a limited-suppression area.
"It is being allowed to burn, but that doesn't mean we're just sitting and watching it. It is being managed and it is being confined," said Brett Ricker, fire information officer.
Ricker said the goal is to keep the fire in an area east of the 1996 Crooked Creek burn of 17,500 acres, north to north east of the Crooked Creek drainage and the Caribou Hills and west of the Fox River drainage.
"Our maximum allowable acreage for the fire, which we call the maximum manageable area, is 128,380 acres," Ricker said.
Fire managers remain optimistic about aerial firing operations that took place along the western and northwestern edge of the fire Thursday and Friday.
These "burnouts" help eliminate fuel near the border of the refuge and were attempted to hold the fire within refuge wilderness area.
The blaze reached the northeast corner of the Crooked Creek burn, which fire officials believe should slow the progress of the fire.
There are 74 personnel assigned to the fire. The Pioneer Peak Type 1 Crew and the Kenai Type 2 Crew arrived Friday and Chena Hot Shots arrived Saturday. Two more hot shot crews are anticipated to arrive today.
Two CL-215 water-scooping aircraft and several helicopters are supporting the fire and a U.S. Fish and Wildlife crew continues to mop up around a cabin in the Big Bay area one of the oldest historic cabins on the peninsula, as well as a cabin on Caribou Island.
Fire crews will establish a spike camp close to the fire line near the northwest corner of the fire and begin reinforcing the line created by aerial firing.
Fire officials stated they fielded more than 100 phone calls Friday many from Anchorage from citizens concerned about smoke.
"We have been getting a lot of calls," Ricker said Saturday.
A public meeting held at Skyview High School on Friday evening was attended by approximately 60 people. Those in attendance learned about the tactics being used to manage the fire and had their questions answered by representatives from the Type 2 Interagency Incident Management Team and the Kenai National Wildfire Refuge.
"We gave honest answers and I think people feel more comfortable now. I think people now know where its burning and what is going on," Ricker said.
The wet weather and high humidity Saturday was expected to aid fire management and help eliminate some of the smoke in the air.
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