May 25 video by Sonya Wellman – Alaska Public Media
The Funny River Fire continued to burn the central Kenai Peninsula this week. As of Monday afternoon, it’s estimated to have burned more than 158,000 acres with 30% containment. Funny River Road from Mile 7 to the end was evacuated on Sunday afternoon. The Kenai Keys area was put on evacuation alert.
The fire is mainly burning within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, though it has pushed outside those boundaries over the last few days.
Sarah McAlpin said she lives on the Funny River side of the Kenai Keys. She and her husband and their dog left home with only some medications, documents, and a few valuables.
She and other evacuees attended one of the many public information sessions at Redoubt Elementary School in Soldotna. It’s serving as a Red Cross shelter for people displaced by the fire.
Kris Ericksen is a public information officer with the Alaska Incident Management Team. She’s helping get the word out to residents about the most recent fire updates.
She says there have been no injuries. And, at this point, there are no structures known to have been destroyed.
She also said there is no known structural damage in the Funny River area.
However, Ericksen said it’s hard to determine if there has or has not been damage to more rural cabins without being able to get on the ground and check.
She said crews have are focusing their efforts on the northern edge of the fire.
Michelle Weston is an information officer for the fire management team. She says the wind has been a major factor in the fire so far.
She says it has pushed the fire deeper into the wildlife refuge.
Weston said there are about 600 people involved in the firefighting effort. That includes Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopters, water scoopers from Canada, management officials from the Yukon, and teams from the Lower 48.
Kenai Borough Mayor Mike Navarre said it’s been a community, statewide and regional effort. And, he said he hopes the weather will help over the next few days.
The National Weather Service said it could begin raining about midnight Monday night and continue through Tuesday. Scattered showers were expected Wednesday and Thursday.
But for now, residents like Sarah McAlbin will wait, watch, and hope for some news that the fire is moving away from their homes.
The Red Cross shelter in Soldotna has open cot space and is providing some meals and snacks for people displaced by the fire.