Story last updated at 5:50 PM on Monday, May 18, 2009

Mile 17 fire 100 percent contained

Mop-up continues of hot spots

By Michael Armstrong
Staff Writer

Wildland firefighters have fully contained the Mile 17 East End Road fire as of 6 p.m. Sunday. A fire line has been built around the entire perimeter of the 1,074-acre fire. Firefighters on Sunday and Monday continued to mop up hot spots.

"Everything is in major mop-up mode now," said Pete Buist, an Alaska Division of Forestry fire information officer.

An evacuation advisory for East End Road east of Mile 17 and in Voznesenka, Razdolna and Kachemak Selo also has been lifted, and East End Road is now open to general traffic. Fire officials ask drivers to use caution on the narrow, winding road and to watch out for fire engines and vehicles.

The National Weather Service today issued a "red flag" warning for the western Kenai Peninsula, the Anchorage area, the Matanuska and Susitna River valleys, the Copper River Basin and most of interior Alaska. A red flag means fire danger is extremely high, and fires can ignite quickly. The warning remains in effect until 10 p.m. Wednesday. An open burning ban has been in effect in Homer and is now back in effect for the Kenai Peninsula. The ban includes burn barrels. Warming and campfires are permitted, but fire officials urged people to use extreme caution.

There are 261 firefighters and staff on the scene. That number will drop this week, although firefighters will work the fire area for at least several weeks. A Type 1 incident command team will hand over fire management to a Type 3 team on Wednesday.

Warm and sunny weather made hot spots easier to identify for firefighters. Smoldering brush, stumps and logs continue to hold heat and give off smoke. Firefighters have been focusing efforts on those hot spots, cutting up logs, churning up ash and wetting them down. Repairs to fire lines around homes also have begun.

Fire officials said they now believe eight structures were damaged or destroyed, including two homes that were primary residences. About 150 other structures escaped serious damage.

A temporary flight restriction around the fire area has been lifted for aviators, but officials ask pilots to use caution. Forestry aircraft are still in the area.

For fire information, call 235-2851.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michaelarmstrong.@homernews.com.

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