SOAR International undaunted by fire in Kenai, Alaska

(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/National Guard)

(Photo courtesy Flickr/CC/National Guard)

USA (MNN) — A massive fire in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula has grown to 286 square miles, but temperatures in the low 50s and continued light rain have finally given firefighters a break.

The Funny River Fire, which began May 19, saw a slowed growth of just 2 square miles 48 hours ago. Weather aided the 713 assigned firefighters.

Greg Mangione with SOAR International says, “Our emergency services and fire personnel have just done an amazing job dealing with one of the largest–if not THE largest–fires at this time in the United States, and the second largest wildfire we’ve had in the Kenai Peninsula.” Through their efforts, the Funny River Horse Trail Fire is now estimated at roughly 183,200 acres, which means it’s contained at roughly at 30%.

As for the ministry headquarters in Kenai, he adds, “We have not been affected directly. Our offices are about 13 miles away from the fire. The winds have kept it away from coming closer to us.” Investigators suspect cigarettes started the devastating blaze. The good news, though, is that “nobody has been hurt from the fire, which is amazing, and no homes have been lost. It sounds like there have been a couple of cabins in the hills that might have gotten harmed by the fire.”

Rain began falling this week, but officials say it will take several straight days of heavy rain to change overall fire activity, and people should expect to see smoke from inside the perimeter of the fire into the summer. Still, it was enough to cause fire officials to lift evacuation measures. Mangione says although some of their ministry partners and staff had to leave, “People were able to return to their homes and breathe a sigh of relief. The fire is far from out, but things are getting much more under control.”

Meanwhile, after two weeks of a raging inferno, hope is growing. “They’ve been able to establish some pretty good fire breaks all along those lines and then directly to the north, the communities that were directly affected and evacuated. They’ve been able to increase the size of those firebreak lines and strengthen them.”

(Photo courtesy SOAR International)

(Photo courtesy SOAR International)

Regarding SOAR’s ministry, Mangione says the summer planning was not disrupted. “Right now, we’re in the middle of putting everything together for summer camp. It looks like we’re going to be involved in three different camps this year: one that’s in the southeast area of Blagoveshchensk, and then two camps in the Moscow area. One would be an English camp. We are looking for a few people to volunteer time and resources to attend that camp and [to help] our orphan outreach.”

Why the name SOAR? Service and Outreach Alaska to Russia. Mangione explains, “The beginning thrust of our ministry was into rural Russia and the Far East region, just across the Bering Straits. We’re in a very good location for the short-term teams that will come up and come over to Russia with us.”

In addition to being an acronym, God has given SOAR the promise of Isaiah 40:31, “Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will SOAR on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Teams are forming now for SOAR’s summer ministry. Click here to learn more.