Wildfire defense tactics hit home in Cooper Landing
Stacy and Shannon Corbin have already lost out on the 2019 tourist season. Their guide service typically generates thousands of dollars a day as they take costumers on trophy trout fishing expeditions on the Kenai River, but smoke from the Swan Lake Fire has choked out their home community of Cooper Landing - and now the threat of spreading flames is a growing concern.
Standing dockside, near his property on the Kenai Lake, Corbin shows me a pumping system that he set up just less than two weeks ago, learning as he went.
"We're approaching 800 thousand to a million gallons of water that we've been able to put on the perimeter of this property," he said.
This is all happening on a little less than 2 acres of land, for around 12 hours each day. The Corbins have already moved several boats and a camper to safer locations, but they plan on staying to defend their home and lodge until it's time to leave.
"I mean obviously at the end of the day lives are the most important thing but we are going to be here watering until we absolutely have to leave," Corbin told KTUU. "That has become our life, and I don't know what else we'd be doing. Yeah, we're exhausted and tired ... We're suffering, but so are a lot of other people."
As of Thursday, 713 personnel had been assigned to the Swan Lake Fire. The focus of many operations is an area near Resurrection Pass at Trout Lake, where smokey conditions have limited access to the fire from the air.
During his daily watering duties, Corbin spoke about checking for updates from the local emergency management offices hourly - and hearing about the work being done on the front line.
"I can't even imagine what it's like out there," he said. "It's a war. What these people are doing to save our town means everything to us."
Earlier in the week, crews of hotshots began digging in - selecting strategic areas between the Resurrection Pass area and Cooper Landing. Hundreds of miles of hose lines have been put into place, along with fire breaks and dozer lanes to prevent the fire from moving towards the central concentration of homes and businesses in the area.
The Kenai Peninsula School District has also issued a closure at Cooper Landing School, at least until September 3. As long as the community remains in a level 2 "Set' evacuation status, class is unlikely to take place there.
At a community meeting on Wednesday, residents focused on frustration of the difficulties of traveling the Sterling Road. Officials from the Kenai Peninsula Borough have issues placards that help road crews identify local traffic in an effort to allow roadways to operate in a smoother capacity; however, travel to and from the area is still discouraged unless necessary.