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Fire jumps Kenai River as nearly 600 firefighters battle Funny River blaze

Laurel Andrews
Sam Werner, left, and Levi Hohl put out hot spots along a fire line near HohlÕs brotherÕs home near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday, May 24, 2014. The Funny River fire had burned up to the line three hours before.
Loren Holmes
Jeff Stark of the Alaska Smokejumpers lays fire hose at a cabin in the on the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Chena Hot Shots, a Type 1 wildland firefighting crew from Fairbanks, hikes along Funny River Road while battling the wildfire on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Firefighters mop up hot spots along Funny River Road on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. The evacuation order has been lifted and residents along the road have been allowed to return to their homes.
Loren Holmes
Trees burn to the edge of the water on the south side of the Kenai River at 2:01 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014, across from Kenai Keys.
Brian Looney
Central Emergency Services firefighters monitor hot spots that had crossed the fire line near Alaska View Lane in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Sunday, May 25, 2014. The area was evacuated later that day.
Loren Holmes
A bulldozer clears a fire line on Saturday, May 24, 2014, protecting the Funny River neighborhood from a wildfire that has topped 100 thousand acres in size.
Loren Holmes
Jeff Stark of the Alaska Smokejumpers lays fire hose at a cabin on the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
An air tanker drops water on the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Firefighters mop up hot spots along Funny River Road on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. The evacuation order has been lifted and residents along the road have been allowed to return to their homes.
Loren Holmes
A river boat stands offshore in front of the fire line on the south side of the Kenai River at 2:03 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014, across from Kenai Keys.
Brian Looney
An Alaska National Guard Blackhawk helicopter dumps water on the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
A pyrocumulonimbus cloud forms above the northern flank of the Funny River fire on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Jeff Stark of the Alaska Smokejumpers lays fire hose at a cabin on the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
Firefighter Spencer McLean of Central Emergency Services places a water and foam mixture on the on the brush and trees along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
ANNE RAUP / Anchorage Daily News Boaters, bikers, four-wheeler enthusiasts and others flocked to Eklutna Lake in Chugach State Park on Memorial Day, May 26, 2014, despite heavy smoke from the wildfires burning in Southcentral Alaska.
Anne Raup
Local resident Sue Looney watches for embers jumping the river on the Kenai Keys side of the Kenai River at 2:13 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Brian Looney
Members of the Houston, Alaska fire department stage their personnel and equipment in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Sunday, May 25, 2014. The area was later evacuated.
Loren Holmes
Dan Desmarais, left, helps his neighbor John Hohl water his home and yard in advance of the nearby Funny River fire on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014. HohlÕs home is near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna.
Loren Holmes
Land owners check on their Bear Creek cabin on the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
A firefighter from Central Emergency Service monitors the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Wildfire smoke obscures the Chugach Mountains as Sen. Lisa Murkowski speaks at the Anchorage Veterans Memorial Rededication Ceremony held Monday morning, May 26, 2014, on the Delaney Park Strip.
Erik Hill
Fire crews arrive and help search through dense smoke to find embers in the Kenai Keys Subdivision at 2:42 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Brian Looney
From left, Arianna Moonin, 11, Tristan Moonin, 8, Kammy Highlands-Vatshelle, 9, Elias Moonin, 12, and Tatiana Moonin, 9 play on a trampoline in the Funny River neighborhood while a forest fire burns behind them on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Their neighborhood was evacuated an hour later.
Loren Holmes
An airplane prepares to drop retardant on a fire burning on the edge of Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Wildland firefighters and supplies are positioned at the Bear Creek subdivision on the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
Firefighters hydrate while monitoring the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
Helicopters dump water on flames on the south side of the Kenai River to hold the line at 3:08 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014, across from Kenai Keys.
Brian Looney
A helicopter drops water on a hot spot near the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
A fire burns on the edge of Lake Road in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Streams of smoke billow from the Funny River wildfire along the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
A firefighter works the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Gov
Helicopters scoop water from the Kenai River to hold the line on the south side of the river at 3:09 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Brian Looney
An Alaska National Guard Blackhawk helicopter gathers water from Aurora Lake to dump on the Funny River fire, burning nearby on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Chris Lucas watches a fire burn near his home off of Lake Road in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
A helicopter shuttles firefighters to the remote Bear Creek subdivision on north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
A goat named Snickers that lives at Mile 9 of Funny River Road was relocated to Soldotna during the wildfire on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
Planes dump water on the south side of the Kenai River at 3:34 p.m. Saturday, May 24, 2014, across from Kenai Keys.
Brian Looney
Driver Mike Morris monitors a ridge beyond a group of firefighters working on a fire line near Aurora Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Morris is looking for any sign of the fire encroaching on the firefighters.
Loren Holmes
John Hohl, left, rushes to clear spruce from his home near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014. With him is his brother Levi Hohl, in red, and friend Sam Werner.
Loren Holmes
Photo by Karol Raszkiewicz Smoke from the Funny River Horse Trail fire rises above the peninsula Thursday evening, May 22, 2014. Raszkiewicz was on a flight from Dillingham to Anchorage when she made the aerial image of the smoke.
Karol Raszkiewicz
Sierra Chapman, 11, feeds leaves from a tree to some of the 10 goats and 4 Alpaca's that live at Mile 9 of Funny River Road that were relocated to Soldotna on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
Central Emergency Services firefighter Sarah Smith informs Funny River residents Pete Chaussee, left, Angela Rhodes, and Dan Smith of the current Funny River fire conditions from a lookout point at the end of Alaska View Lane in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
An Alaska National Guard Blackhawk helicopter prepares to gather water from Aurora Lake to dump on the Funny River fire, burning nearby on Sunday, May 25, 2014. Behind the helicopter is a pyrocumulonimbus cloud, created by fire activity on the north east edge of the fire.
Loren Holmes
A firefighter warns Sam Werner, left, and Levi Hohl of a fire that jumped a fire line a half mile from where they were working to try to secure Levi HohlÕs brotherÕs property near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014. They were evacuated shortly afterwards.
Loren Holmes
Heavy smoke from the Funny River wildfire is visible in the distance from Erik Hansen Scout Park in Kenai on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
A helicopter dropped water on the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
John Hohl walks the fire line near his home on Sunday morning, May 25, 2014. He and his brother were putting out hot spots.
Loren Holmes
Children play on a trampoline north of Browns Lake Road on Rabbit Run on Sunday afternoon, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
John Hohl, right, is exhausted and frustrated after being evacuated from his home near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014. From a neighborÕs home, he watched the fire burn less than a half mile from his home.
Loren Holmes
Incident commander Rob Allen of the Alaska Incident Management Team addresses questions during a community meeting at Tustumena Elementary School near Kasilof that was attended by over two hundred people on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
A helicopter that dropped water on the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014, gets another bucket of water.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
Sam Werner walks a fire line near Browns Lake, looking for hot spots, on Saturday, May 24, 2014. The Funny River fire had burned up to the line three hours before.
Loren Holmes
An airplane drops retardant on a fire line near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Sam Werner rests in Dan DesmaraisÕ yard after working furiously to clear trees from his friend John HohlÕs nearby property near Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014. Werner and others were told to evacuate as the fire jumped a fire line less than a half mile from HohlÕs home.
Loren Holmes
Rem West hits a tee shot on the 7th hole at the Bird Homestead Golf Course off Funny River Road on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014, with a column of smoke from the wildfire visible in the distance.
Bill Roth
A helicopter dropped water on the wildfire along Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
A hot spot flares up along the edge of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Browns Lake on Sunday morning, May 25, 2014. The Funny River fire was temporarily stopped here overnight, but changing conditions prompted officials to issue an evacuation order for neighborhoods directly across the line.
Loren Holmes
Dan Desmarais, left, and Steve Schumacher watch the Funny River fire from DesmaraisÕ deck on Browns Lake on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Skilak lake is shrouded in smoke from the Funny River fire on Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Wildfire officials held a community meeting at Tustumena Elementary School near Kasilof that was attended by over two hundred people on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
The Hooper Bay crew, Type 2 wildland firefighters, hike towards the Funny River Horse Trail wildfire on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Gov. Sean Parnell surveys the Funny River fire on Sunday, May 25, 2014, on the Kenai Peninsula.
Photo courtesy Office of the Governor
Central Emergency Services firefighters put out hot spots along the edge of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Browns Lake on Sunday morning, May 25, 2014. The Funny River fire was temporarily stopped here overnight, but changing conditions prompted officials to issue an evacuation order for neighborhoods directly across the line.
Loren Holmes
Helicopters drop water on the Funny River fire near Browns Lake on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
A sign warns campers of burn bans in effect at a campsite along Skilak Lake Saturday afternoon, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Wildfire officials held a community meeting at Tustumena Elementary School near Kasilof that was attended by over two hundred people on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Sterling resident Brian McCorison drove up Funny River Road on Tuesday, May 27, 2014 to check out the area where the Funny River fire was thought to have started. The evacuation order has been lifted and residents along the road have been allowed to return.
Loren Holmes
The Hooper Bay Type 2 wildland firefighters prepare to hike into the Funny River Horse Trail wildfire on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Fire reaches the south side of the Kenai River, just across from the Kenai Keys Subdivision, at 1:50 p.m. Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Brian Looney
Central Emergency Services firefighters walk the fire line along the edge of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Browns Lake on Sunday morning, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
A fire flares up south of Browns Lake in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Photo courtesy of Fred and Cecilia Colvin A resident took a picture of the wall of flame erupting about 10:35 p.m. Friday night (May 23, 2014) off Heavy Down Drive near mile 105 on the east side of the Sterling Highway before people there were evacuated.
Fred and Cecilia Colvin
Clouds of smoke rise above small airplanes parked at the Soldotna Airport near Funny River Road on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Sterling resident Brian McCorison drove up Funny River Road on Tuesday, May 27, 2014 to check out the area where the Funny River fire was thought to have started. The evacuation order has been lifted and residents along the road have been allowed to return.
Loren Holmes
The Hooper Bay Type 2 wildland firefighters prepare to hike into the Funny River Horse Trail wildfire on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Boats and equipment are ferried away from a cabin and away from the approaching fire on the south side of the Kenai River at 1:54 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014, near Kenai Keys.
Brian Looney
Central Emergency Services firefighter Sarah Smith informs residents Mike Foust and Danna Moisii of the current Funny River fire conditions from a lookout point at the end of Alaska View Lane in the Funny River neighborhood of Soldotna on Sunday, May 25, 2014. In the distance, a hot spot flares up from the still very active fire.
Loren Holmes
From left, Levi Hohl, Steve Schumacher, John Hohl and Dan Desmarais watch fire activity from DesmaraisÕ deck on Browns Lake on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Mary Joe McElroy, Katie Blossom, and Marina Bosick get an update on the Funny River wildfire by cell phone at their Bear Creek cabin in the remote subdivision on the north shore of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
Smokey warns motorist driving south on the Sterling Highway near Soldotna that the fire danger was "Extreme" on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Officials lifted the evacuation order for the Funny River neighborhood on Tuesday, May 27, 2014, and residents began returning shortly after 9:00am.
Loren Holmes
The Hooper Bay Type 2 wildland firefighter crew hikes into the Funny River Horse Trail wildfire on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
A last load out from a cabin on the south side of the Kenai River is unloaded on the gravel beach at Kenai Keys at 1:58 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Brian Looney
The Funny River fire burns near the northern edge of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Browns Lake on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes
An ember burns in the northern portion of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Saturday, May 24, 2014. The area, along a fire line south of Browns Lake, had burned three hours before.
Loren Holmes
Firefighters douse hot spots along a fire line near Browns Lake on Saturday, May 24, 2014.
Loren Holmes
Streaks of wildfire debris float on the surface of Tustumena Lake on Friday, May 23, 2014.
Bill Roth
A bulldozer clears a line off Funny River Road on Thursday evening, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Firefighters mop up hot spots along Funny River Road on Tuesday, May 27, 2014. The evacuation order has been lifted and residents along the road have been allowed to return to their homes.
Loren Holmes
Firefighter Matt Tegerdine of Central Emergency Services monitors a hot spot to prevent the wildfire from crossing Funny River Road on Thursday, May 22, 2014.
Bill Roth
Smoke obscures sight of a cabin on the south side of the Kenai River at 1:59 p.m. on Saturday, May 24, 2014, across from Kenai Keys.
Brian Looney
The Funny River fire burns near the northern edge of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Browns Lake on Sunday, May 25, 2014.
Loren Holmes

An evacuation advisory for the Kasilof area in the Pollard Loop and Cardwell subdivisions was lifted Monday afternoon, as nearly 600 firefighters continued to battle the ongoing Funny River fire on Southcentral Alaska's Kenai Peninsula.

The Funny River fire had grown to 156,000 acres by Sunday night, said Bernie Pineda, spokesperson for the interagency fire command team fighting the blaze. The fire was just over 30 percent contained on Monday morning.

On Sunday, the fire had spotted to the North side of the Kenai River as southerly winds blew embers across the river, Pineda said. Firefighters put out spots in several areas on the northeast perimeter of the fire, and "picked up some more stuff on Sterling Highway on the Kenai Keys Road" north of the river, he said.

Firefighters were "babysitting" those pieces that had been extinguished Sunday, he said. "We're dousing those with water-bucket drops as needed."

The fire continued to burn Monday north of the Kenai River, parallel to the northern shore of Torpedo Lake, Pineda said, over a "significant" area.

There was still a lot of work occurring up there, Pineda said.

The fire was still holding to the west of the Killey River, where the tributary branches off of the Kenai River, Pineda said.

Firefighters were also working Monday to secure a fire line along the entire western side of the fire, from the Funny River road south to the Tustumena Lake.

"We're having more success on that side," Pineda said, adding that they expected to have that one "buttoned up" by day's end.

Pineda said no structures had succumbed to the blaze as of Monday morning.

"We've been very, very fortunate," Pineda said. However, "the potential is still there with all these homes to the north."

The eastern side of the fire, where it was burning through the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, has been "untouched" by firefighting crews, Pineda said. The interagency fire command team was working with the refuge to determine how much farther they wanted to let the fire continue to burn to the east, he said.

Evacuation advisory lifted

On Monday, an evacuation advisory that had been in place for three days was lifted for the Kasilof area, in the Pollard Loop and Cardwell subdivisions, according to the incident information website.

The Lower Skilak Lake Campground was still under an evacuation notice on Monday due to threat of fire. The fire was burning south of Skilak Lake, roughly 3 or 4 miles from the shore, said Michelle Weston, Alaska Division of Forestry spokesperson.

An evacuation advisory remained in effect from the end of Feuding Lane in Sterling east to the end of Kenai Keys Road, on the north side of the Kenai River.

An evacuation notice remained in effect for the area surrounding Funny River Road from Mile 7 east to Fisherman's Drive, including Salmon Run Drive, Pineda said.

After issuing the evacuation notice on Funny River Road on Sunday, around 1,000 homes were identified as needing to be evacuated. Roughly 200 people who were still in their homes were contacted "eyeball to eyeball" by officials, Pineda said. Everyone else had already evacuated.

"Everybody should be out at this point," Pineda said.

Many residents moved to a sports center in Soldotna, which had been set up as an emergency shelter for evacuees.

The Red Cross also set up a shelter at Redoubt Elementary School on Sunday. Just two people took shelter at the school overnight, said Red Cross Emergency Operation Center liaison Jeanette Hanneman. More residents were expected to stay overnight Monday as the word got out that the shelter was up and running.

The Redoubt Elementary School was being used as both a day shelter and "confirmation hub" for residents, Hanneman said. Roughly 150 residents attended an update Monday morning at the school, she said.

Sterling Elementary school was on standby to be used as backup shelter, should the need arise, Hanneman said.

Light rain was forecast for the Western Kenai starting Tuesday morning and continuing through Tuesday night. That will likely break up into showers on Wednesday, said Bob Clay, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage.

The cooler, wetter weather pattern is expected to continue through late this week, Clay said, and should provide "some assistance" in the firefighters' efforts to control the blaze.

Reach Laurel Andrews at laurel@alaskadispatch.com.

 


By LAUREL ANDREWS
laurel@alaskadispatch.com