Alaska officials close forest areas as wildfire approaches

July 8, 2019 GMT

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Alaska officials closed some forest lands to all uses as a wildfire approached the Chugach National Forest, a report said.

Smoke from the growing Swan Lake wildfire pushed into Anchorage Sunday, The Anchorage Daily News reported Sunday.

Air quality was listed as unhealthy in Anchorage as of 11 a.m. Sunday.

The fire on the Kenai Peninsula in south-central Alaska was ignited by a lightning strike June 5 and has been burning in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.


The fire had stretched to about 144 square miles (373 square kilometers) Sunday, officials said.

All Chugach National Forest lands west of the Resurrection Pass Trail are closed from the Resurrection Creek Gold Panning Area to Devil’s Pass Trail, forest spokeswoman Alicia King said.

Areas south of Devin’s Pass Trail, west of the Seward Highway and north of the Sterling Highway are also closed, King said.

The Resurrection Pass trail and the popular Porcupine Campground and Gull Rock Trail in Hope all remain open, King said.

“This fire is unusual. These weather conditions are unusual, to be so dry and warm for such a consistent period of time,” King said. “We’re closing these areas because we want to make sure we’re keeping public safety in mind.”

Dry, nearly record-setting hot temperatures have challenged attempts to manage the fire on high elevations of mountain ridges, said Jonathan Ashford of the NorthWest Interagency Incident Management Team 13.

The fire burning through high-elevation alpine vegetation could mean less intensity and slower burning, as well as fire managers relying on helicopter water drops because firefighters cannot safely work on the mountainous terrain, Ashford said.