Funny River Fire Grows to 3,000 Acres, Runs Into Tustumena Lake

Shady Grove Oliver and Aaron Selbig
A large plume of smoke hovers over Soldotna.
Ariel Van Cleave photo

     Two large wildfires have blazed through hundreds of acres in Soldotna and Tyonek.

     The Soldotna fire is located near Funny River Road about three miles south of Soldotna airport. As of 10 a.m. this morning, Forestry Spokesperson Andy Alexandrou says the fire has burned 3,000 acres. It’s estimated to be nine miles long and about a mile wide. He says the fire is erratic with flame height up to 200 feet. The fire reached the northwest shore of Tustumena Lake this morning.

     Alexandrou says there are 40 firefighters on scene. There are fixed-wing aircraft and two helicopters dropping water on the fire and bulldozers clearing the area. Alexandrou says because the fire is on a wildlife refuge, the management team can’t use fire retardant as it doesn’t comply with Fish and Wildlife standards. Instead, the team has dropped water along the perimeter of the fire.

     A Type 2 fire management team from several agencies around the state is expected to arrive in Soldotna at 6pm. It will relieve the local firefighting effort.

     Alexandrou says no structures have been damaged and none are in immediate danger. There have been no evacuations. He says the cause is still unknown but firefighters suspected it may have been caused by people, as the area is a popular recreation spot. It is currently under investigation.

     The National Weather Service has smoke and haze in the forecast for the southwestern Kenai Peninsula, mostly south of Soldotna. It has also issued a red flag warning through tonight for high winds along the western peninsula.

     Alexandrou says he is hopeful the increasing humidity and cold front coming in from the north will make it more difficult for the fire to spread.