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Swan Lake fire smoke drifts back into Anchorage

Smoke from the Swan Lake fire on the Kenai Peninsula drifted into Anchorage on Thursday and lower temperatures aloft helped concentrate the smoke in the city, surprising residents who’d become accustomed to clear skies in recent days.

“It was out of sight, out of mind,” said Lucas Boyer, a National Weather Service meteorologist. “We had a couple of really good clear days there, and things cooled off, and it became easy to forget there’s still a 100,000-acre fire burning down there.”

The air quality index remains moderate — not “good” but still below “unhealthy” levels, according to state air quality data for Thursday.

“We’re monitoring it but we don’t think there’s a need for an air quality advisory,” said Mark Smith, with the state Division of Air Quality.

Light winds have shifted to flow from the fire and up Cook Inlet to Anchorage, Boyer said. A temperature inversion capped the smoke, cloaking the city beneath a haze.

Temperatures in the mid-80s around the area of the Swan Lake fire northeast of Sterling increased the smoke of the 101,000-acre fire, said Adam Livermore, an information officer with the Swan Lake fire incident command team.

The fire is largely contained, but it could smolder until winter or a huge rainstorm arrives, Livermore said. Crews are working to stop the fire from “creeping" east. They’re on guard elsewhere around the perimeter to make sure it stays hemmed in. Two helicopters are dousing it with 40,000 gallons of water daily, he said.

“The temperature went up and the relative humidity went down, so there will probably be more smoke in the area until it cools down,” Livermore said.

Morning smoke could be a problem in Anchorage on Friday as well, Boyer said. But there’s a chance of rain in the forecast Friday and Saturday and winds should move in from the southeast, helping mix things up, he said.

“There’s a good chance everyone wakes up Saturday morning and we don’t see this cycle again Saturday, hopefully,” he said.

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