Firefighters anxiously awaited the arrival of rain on the Kenai Peninsula as they worked Monday to contain the edge of a huge wildfire that for the first time crossed to the north side of the Kenai River — a 300-foot-wide natural fire buffer that failed to keep flames in check.
Winds gusting to 25 miles per hour were pushing the massive Funny River Fire, estimated on Monday evening to be just over 176,000 acres, or about 275 square miles, through an uninhabited area north of the Kenai River outside of the community of Sterling, while firefighters patrolled the western boundary of that blaze and tried to create a barrier for an estimated 100 homes and cabins in a nearby waterfront community in case the wind shifts .
Residents of Kenai Keys, which sits on the north shore of the Kenai River near Sterling, said embers started several small fires there on Sunday that were quickly put out, and that a dilapidated cabin across the river burned to the ground. But authorities said late Monday that they were still unaware of any inhabited buildings that have been destroyed by the week-old blaze.
And after several days of dry, windy conditions prime for burning, forecasters were finally predicting a 90 percent chance of rain Tuesday, with showers possible later in the week — a huge relief for the estimated 670 firefighters assigned to the fire by Monday evening.