Kodiak residents may have noticed an orange-tinted sun and acrid-smelling air Monday morning. That’s the result of smoke coming down from the Kenai Peninsula where the Swan Lake Fire continues to burn. On Saturday the wildfire jumped the Sterling Highway and is currently burning at more than 110,000 acres, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.
According to Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation meteorologist Mark Smith, the peninsula fire burned so hot this weekend that smoke rose into the upper atmosphere where winds from the north pushed it down south.
“Since the winds were coming from the north, they’re what we call the cold wind. As the smoke cooled, it sinks,” he said in a phone interview Monday morning. “Since it was already cold air pushing in from the north, and we move into the south, the smoke is settling or cooling with the temperatures and so it lowers. And so the particles are just falling to the ground … just starting to settle as it gets over Kodiak.”
Smith added that Kodiak’s mountainous terrain helps to trap smoke in the valleys. The settling particles are what give the air that smoky odor, he says.
DEC has a general air quality advisory issued for Southcentral Alaska through 4 p.m. today, primarily for the Kenai Peninsula. According to Smith, Kodiak still has a 10-mile visibility range, well above the level at which DEC would issue an air quality advisory.
“From an air quality standpoint, you have very little smoke,” he said. “Yes, you can smell it, but for an air quality issue, you’re still in the ‘good’ range.”
Smith said given the current wind forecast, smoke should be mostly gone by the end of Monday. Tuesday brings a chance of rain, according to the National Weather Service.
Kodiak Fire Chief Jim Mullican confirmed to KMXT Monday morning that the only source of smoke is from the peninsula; there are no wildfires fires currently burning on the island.