Smoke Drifts Into The Interior As Funny River Fire Grows

May 27, 2014

A massive, wind-whipped wildfire on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula is still growing. As of last night, the Funny River Fire had grown to more than 182,000 acres. Officials report difficulty accessing the blaze.

Fire managers are hoping rains forecast today and tomorrow will help crews gain a handle on the fire.

Meanwhile, smoke has found its way more than 500 miles north to the Interior. The air in Fairbanks is thick and hazy. Lead forecaster for the National Weather Service Chris Cox said, "Smoke moved through the Mat-Su valley, squeezed through the pass and is now sitting in the Tanana valley."

Cox says passes in the Alaska Range are low enough to allow the smoke to pass through the mountains. He says the cloud of smoke from the blaze is also quite high. Cox says the forecast for the interior calls for cloudy skies. He expects the smoke to linger for the next few days.

"The smoke's already in the low levels, the clouds are well above that, it's not really holding it in place. It's just not a lot of strong flow, although Wednesday and Thursday we are expecting a weak Chinook so it should clear out some of the smoke in the southern interior," Cox said.

No injuries or structural damages have been reported. On Sunday, authorities ordered the evacuation of 1,000 homes and other structures. 

An evacuation advisory for the Kasilof area was lifted Monday, but evacuation orders for two other areas, including Keys on the north side of the Kenai River remains in effect. 

The Red Cross has set up a shelter in Soldotna. A second shelter in nearby Sterling is also open to the community. 

600 firefighters are working the Funny River Fire.