National Wildlife Refuge System

Fire at Kenai

The Funny River Fire spread to nearly 200,000 acres and was 46 percent contained by May 29.
Credit: Josh Tunbow

May 30, 2014 - The Funny River Fire, named after a nearby stream where the fire started, spread to nearly 200,000 acres, nearly all in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. The fire was 46 percent contained as of May 29.  “What has helped in our containment efforts has been the lower temperatures, higher humidity and lower wind speeds,” says Steve Miller, deputy refuge manager.  Spruce bark beetles have killed many of the trees that became ready fuel for fire.


Fire approached dangerously close to Nurse's Cabin, one of several public use cabins on Kenai Refuge, AK
Credit: USFWS

Several of the refuge’s popular cabins have been threatened by fire, according to Leah Eskelin, Kenai Refuge park ranger.  “Thanks to the fire crews, Nurse’s and Pipe Creek Cabins have been saved. It was a very close call. In some areas the fire was within a few feet of the foundation.”  Both cabins remain closed. Amanda Warren posted on the Kenai Refuge Facebook page that her daughter was a member of the Youth Conservation Corps crew that restored the cabin. “So glad it survived,” she wrote.  Privately owned cabins on the south shore of Skilak Lake are being monitored by fire crews but are not in immediate danger.


More than 750 firefighters are working to keep the fire away from populated areas and there have been no injuries and structural damage has been limited.  With nearly two million acres, Kenai Refuge is large enough that migrating birds have options to avoid the fire; migrating caribou have not been affected.


Wolf Pup
Wildland fire fighter Brian Nichols helped save wolf pups from a den abandoned by the mother in the midst of fire.
Credit: USFWS

Wolf Pups Saved
Working with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, Kenai Refuge wildland fire fighters Brian Nichols and Christa Kennedy helped rescue five wolf pups from a den abandoned by the mother in the midst of the fire.  The pups are being treated for dehydration and infections from porcupine quills. They have been transported to Anchorage, where they will be held until they recover.


Eskelin suspects there could be an economic impact on surrounding communities because of evacuations and open fire bans over the Memorial Day weekend. Not surprisingly, there was a dramatic reduction in campers at both refuge and private campgrounds in the area.


Story map and photos


Photos and updated public information on the Kenai Refuge Facebook page here.


Daily advisories on smoke conditions are available here from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation.

Last updated: May 30, 2014