The upside

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JEAN LAKE –Another big fire of the type many have been expecting since spruce-bark beetles devasted Southcentral Alaska forests in the 1990s has swept across the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge south of Alaska’s largest city, but the results do not appear near as grim as those found in the wake of fires north of Anchorage that consumed at least 80 structures.

When the Kenai’s long-burning, Swan Lake fire broke out to the south and jumped the Sterling Highway earlier this week, state and federal fire crews were able to get everyone safely out of the area and protect the community of Cooper Landing to the north.

Sparked by a lightning strike in early June, the Swan Lake fire had looked for a time to be under control but roared to life when winds began whipping across the Peninsula. It has now burned nearly 150,000 acres in the Mystery Creek and Chickaloon River drainages and advanced into the refuge’s Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area. 

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