Update — 7 pm, Tuesday
The Division of Forestry is evacuating the Kenai Keyes subdivision for the second time today as the now 2,000 acre Card Street Fire is only one mile to the east of the area.
According to their Facebook post, “Firefighters are holding it out of the area but they want to get people out in the event wind associated with thunderstorm cells building to the east produces winds that could fan the flames.”
Various agencies are reporting that Hot Shot crews have arrived on the Kenai Peninsula to assist. Five teams, totaling 100 firefighters will join state and local forces numbering around 70.
Additional air support has also been called in, with two National Guard Blackhawk helicopters on the way and a scoop air craft. Nearly 40 drops have been made with fire dispersants.
The fire is moving to the east, and has forced the closure of the west entrance of Skilak Lake Road. The boat ramp there is still accessible from the east entrance.
The Division of Forestry estimates the cost for the first day of operations runs in excess of $140,000. So far 30 loads of retardants have been dumped on the fire. Ten structures have been confirmed destroyed.
A Type-2 management team from Washington state will transition into a lead role Wednesday, working with local agencies. An update from those officials is set for noon Wednesday.
Original post — 5:30 pm
New maps from the Kenai Peninsula Borough show the Card Street Fire has grown to approximately 1,500 acres.
The Community Center in Sterling continues to be the hub for relief efforts. Residents are sharing updates, along with food, clothes, phone chargers, everything. I was just opening my laptop to pull up the latest evacuation maps when a man who had just left the fire zone came over.
“My name is Shun Ada Chi. I saw that maybe my house was going to burn down because it’s coming very quickly through the Feuding Lane and Kenai Keys area. The people were screaming, crying, it’s a very horrible situation. My house is okay. But I’m feeling very sorry for people who have lost their house.”
Shun is one of the lucky ones. Crews have been battling the fire in his neighborhood for nearly 24 hours and ten structures have been destroyed. Krista Schooley is volunteering here. She’s already heard of some bad news for one family.
“We had a lady come in who lost everything,” Schooley said. “She was able to save her two dogs. Her husband woke up to the fire being on her house and all he could do was grab the animals and get out. She was dazed, just in shock. And she came in here and we just loved on her.”
This fire has been confirmed as human caused. It started Monday afternoon and quickly grew to more than six hundred acres. Calm winds throughout the night and into Tuesday morning helped slow the fire’s growth. But Forestry spokesperson Terry Anderson says firefighters are concerned about Tuesday night’s forecast.
“The national lightening forecast for dry lightening, which firefighters always go over in the morning, is a forecast from 1-6,” Anderson said. “Usually in Alaska you may see twos or threes or fours for a lightening forecast. The forecast for the Kenai is a six today. That’s about as high as it gets.”
A Hotshot crew was scheduled to arrive on the scene Tuesday night. A Type 2 management team is slated to take over operations Wednesday morning. Another Forestry spokesperson, Andy Alexandrou says more air support will be on the way as well.
“A couple of Black hawks that were ordered up this morning from the National Guard to pitch in with their bucket and water capability as well as a Canadian CL-215 scoop aircraft,” Alexandrou said. “We’ve seen them here in the state in the past.”
Travelers along the Sterling Highway should check with the Department of Transportation’s 511 number for information on closures. The Alaska State Troopers are in the area helping direct traffic as crews focus their attention on the east end of the fire, where it’s just a couple miles from the highway.