Funny River Fire Hits 67,000 Acres

(NASA photo)
(NASA photo)

The Funny River fire on the Kenai Peninsula has topped 67,000 acres.

The combination of Memorial Day weekend and extreme fire conditions have firefighters concerned.

Download Audio

Jim Schwarber, a public information officer with the Alaska Incident Management Team on the Funny River fire, says the fire has been growing gradually in nearly every direction, and is within a few miles of some communities along the Sterling Highway and the Bear Creek subdivision on Tustumena Lake.

“We have folks working on all those areas to work towards securing that line to try to hold the fire back,” he said.

So far, the fire hasn’t caused any structural damage, but Schwarber says as part of the fire creeps west, firefighters are growing more concerned.

“That’s where the larger communities are is on the west side of the fire, and we’re putting a lot of effort into slowing and holding the fire so that it doesn’t cause any damage,” Schwarber said.

There are around 375 personnel working on the Funny River fire, with more crews expected in the coming days.

Schwarber says this fire is burning a lot hotter than fires normally do this early in the season, which makes it particularly dangerous.

“The fire has been burning very active in typical fuels, but it’s also been spreading and burning in mixed hardwoods, which is an area that typically slows a fire,” he said.

Certain fuels, like black spruce, tend to burn more actively later in the summer, but this year it’s happening early.

As the annual influx of campers make their way down to the Peninsula for Memorial Day weekend, Schwarber says they need to be cognizant of the dangers.

“The Kenai is a tinderbox right now, and we need to behave appropriately,” he said.

Red Flag warnings are in effect for the western Kenai Peninsula and the Matanuska-Susitna Valley.

Until further notice, all open fires are prohibited on the Kenai Peninsula. The term “open fires” refers to any flame source not immediately extinguishable or controllable and applies to any form of wood or charcoal-based fire, even in established fire rings. Gas grills, backpacking or camp stoves using fuel or compressed canisters which can be regulated and shut off are still permitted for use.

Previous articleTyonek Fire Holds At 1,800 Acres
Next articleDNA sample leads to arrests for sexual assault in 2003 cold case

Josh is the web producer for

He has been a part of the web team since his internship during the summer of 2010.

Besides maintaining the website, he also reports for the Alaska Public Radio Network, gives occasional live news updates on KSKA 91.1FM during All Things Considered, runs camera and directs programs for Alaska Public Television, and has taken numerous photos and videos that appear on

Prior to graduating from the Journalism and Public Communications Department at the University of Alaska Anchorage in December 2010, Josh worked at The Northern Light student newspaper where he and his staff won two Associated Collegiate Press Pacemaker Awards.

He has also been an adjunct instructor for the JPC department at UAA.

Born and raised in Anchorage, Alaska, Josh enjoys being outdoors, so when isn’t at work, you can usually find him out fishing, camping, hunting, four-wheeling, or snowmachining.

jedge (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | 907.550.8455 | About Josh