Update: Friday, June 19th. 8:25 am.
Smoke clearing on the Card Street Fire near Sterling allowed Alaska Division of Forestry managers to get a better look at the area burned. They’re now estimating the fire at 7,578 acres, down from previous reports.
A very small portion of the Card Street Fire on the Kenai Peninsula is under control, and the evacuation notice for a couple neighborhoods has been lifted. The fires continue to move east, into the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and away from residential areas.
“Everyday it’s getting more and more contained,” said Terry Anderson one of the public information officers for the
Division of Forestry. He’s been giving regular updates over lunch at the Sterling Community Center and Thursday there was finally some good news. In some of the neighborhoods that were evacuated, crews are now working on the smaller spot fires, and people can finally get back to their homes, at least for now.
“There’s a whole division of guys that work on that all day long and they grid it. They walk back and forth and back and forth and yeah, you can miss it, but it’s rare because that’s what they’re doing on a daily basis,” he said.
In all, more than 250 firefighters are working the Card Street Fire. It’s the number one priority fire in the country, at least at the moment. Crews caught a break Wednesday night as the wind pushed the now 9,000 acre fire into the wilderness of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. But Refuge Fire Management Officer Kristi Bulock says this is not a situation where they
want to simply let the fire burn itself out.
“This is an unwanted fire,” Bulock said. “This fire has the potential, if it crosses the Sterling Highway with the right conditions, it could actually come back in to the north side of Sterling and we absolutely do not want that to happen. The goal is to stop the fire. There’s just too much risk to communities.”
Over in Cooper Landing, residents were also breathing a little easier, but still keeping a sharp eye the 300 acre Juneau Lake Fire and the closer, 100-acre Stetson Creek Fire.
Dan Michels is the General Manager at the Kenai Princess Wilderness Lodge in Cooper Landing. Besides worrying about his own house, he’s got nearly 200 guests who probably didn’t see this in any travel brochures.
*Michels: “All the guests coming in, it’s like ‘keep your tooth brush handy and your medication and what do you do?” (0:10)*
He says they have their own plan to get people out safely, but those fire sare also being kept more or less in check. They’re both the result of lightning strikes earlier in the week.
“And then all of a sudden, crrrrack. And that was that. That started it. They knew which one it was.”
A Type-2 management team is on site for those fires and will take over operations tomorrow. At least 40 additional fire fighters are also expected. The Stetson Creek fire has been relying mostly on air support, as its position on a hillside makes fighting from the ground much more difficult. There’s no cost estimate on those fires, but the Card Street
Fire is now running at more than $160,000 a day, totaling just over a $1 million.