KENAI (AP) Recent rains have mellowed a fire in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, and officials are continuing to let it burn in an attempt to rid the area of beetle-killed spruce.
The more than 31,000-acre Fox Creek fire was ''relatively quiet" Tuesday and is confined to the refuge, said fire information officer Paul Slenkemp. Light rains limited the fire to a creeping smolder throughout the day, he said.
Fire crews are strengthening lines along the fire's western and southwestern borders to protect Caribou Hills recreational area, however, the fire has been purposely allowed to burn through stands of dead spruce to the east.
Fire and park officials hope the lightning-caused fire will eat through the beetle-killed spruce and allow grasses and a variety of other plants to re-establish themselves. The renewed habitat will increase the chances of attracting large animals, such as moose, bear, and wolf, to the area, Slenkemp said.
''We are attempting to use the fire to diversify habitat in the refuge,'' Slenkemp said.
Officials said warmer, drier conditions over the next week will allow fire crews to strengthen the western fire line by dropping from a helicopter chemically charged spheres the size of pingpong balls to burn away fuels.
Officials also anticipate west winds over the next few days will blow smoke into the Kenai Mountains and away from populated areas.
The fire, which began July 11, filled Kenai, Soldotna and other communities Friday with pungent smoke, prompting health warnings. Ninilchik residents to the south of the fire complained of smoky conditions Saturday after the winds changed.
Near the border in the eastern part of the state, the Boundary Creek Fire has consumed 10,000 acres in Alaska and about 2,000 acres in Canada. Intermittent rain slowed the fire Tuesday, said fire information officer Ted Pettis. Fire crews were waiting for drier conditions to start burning up fuel between the fire and the 115-person community of Eagle about six miles north.
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