Fire update: 9:30 a.m. Friday, August 30, 2019

Aug 30, 2019

Caribou Lake Fire, 25 miles northeast of Homer
Credit AK Division of Forestry

The Caribou Lake Fire is still 57% contained. The footprint of the fire is estimated at 904 acres. Forestry officials project that the fire will be 100% contained by the end of next week. Around 80 people are fighting the fire on the ground and in the air.
The Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly approved two emergency measures in a  special meeting Thursday afternoon in response to the ongoing fires across the peninsula. A resolution declaring a local disaster and an ordinance appropriating $200,000 toward response efforts. Both passed unanimously.

Nearly 700 personnel are fighting the Swan Lake Fire, working to protect cabins and other infrastructure in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and Chugach National Forest near Cooper Landing. Residents of Cooper Landing remain in the Set stage of the borough’s READY SET GO evacuation plan. The Refuge and Chugach National Forest have issued full closures on those lands, west of Resurrection Pass Trail to Devil’s Creek and southwest to Quartz Creek.

Sarah Saarloos, Public Information Officer with the Alaska Division of Forestry spoke with KBBI’s Kathleen Gustafson today, Friday morning at 8 a.m. for this fire update.

Transcript:

KBBI:
It's 8 a.m. Friday morning. What is the situation out at Caribou Lake Fire?

Saarloos:
By the end of yesterday, firefighters have completed large sections of containment line on the east, south and west side of the Caribou Lake Fire and all the containment lines were tested by those gusty warm winds that we've had for pretty much the last two days. Everything held. There was no additional growth. The fire remains at 904 Acres.
We don't see that changing at all. We'll just continue to increase that 57%. The goal is to get to 100% containment next week, around the 4th or 5th of September.

KBBI:
You project to have 100% containment by the middle of next week?

Saarloos:
That's correct. We have 80 firefighters out there. All they really have to do is button up that northern line that has a dozer line already. They just need to mop it up and make sure that there's no heat remaining. We didn't lose any structures, no reportable injuries. We're not done yet, we're going to finish strong on this one. It took a lot of different agencies to work together to be able to get this sort of result for a long fire season.
It's a good example of people working together and getting work done.

KBBI:
So in order to be part of the containment line and be added to that percentage of containment, you have the dozer line, but also, 75 feet in, toward the center of area, with no fire. Is that correct?

Saarloos:
That's correct. No heat. Not just no visible flame.
We make sure to get all the way deep into the ground into the dust to make sure that there's no heat remaining that could then spark up with some wind.

KBBI:
Even if it does dump snow and freeze, the fire could come back up in the spring.

Saarloos:
 Unfortunately, when we have these summers that are really dry and we have these drought conditions, that is something that we've seen more up north in the interior where we have fires burn deep into that dry mattress, if you will, of tundra. The winter comes and then in the springtime you get your first windstorm. It will get up into a tree that wind hits it what we call a rekindle. It's rare, but it does happen when we have these really dry summers if the winter doesn't bring heavy rains and snow. It's just going to take a lot of moisture to get down into these two to three feet of dryness that's happened. That's for the Caribou Lake Fire and then also the Swan Lake Fire and some of the other fires in the southcentral area.

It takes, they say, about four inches of sustained rain in a short amount of time to really penetrate through that duff layer.

KBBI:
Are you going to be around town anywhere today or this weekend?

Saarloos:
We will be posting today, the update, around town and then going out to Basargin Road, making sure that those message boards are covered with plastic because we are hopeful that the rain will come. 
But I'm on my third or fourth week so I will be taking the weekend off, mandatory.

KBBI:
Are you going to be returning to this fire when you get done with your break?

Saarloos:
It depends how this fire is going. It depends how the Swan Lake Fire is settling down. There's always the potential that I would be flying to Florida for Hurricane Dorian.

KBBI:
If this is our last conversation, I just want to take a moment to thank you for being so informed and so available.

Saarloos:
Well, thank you for the opportunity. It was a pleasure to be able to work with KBBI. I'm glad that we were able to get on this fire and not lose any structures.

KBBI:
Thank you, Sarah Saarloos, public information officer, for the Alaska Division forestry.

Saarloos:
Thank you Kathleen. Thanks a lot.