With fire danger high, we should all be on high alert

When you got back to the office Tuesday after the holiday weekend, did you notice that some of your coworkers were a little pink after being out in the sun?

Well, the same thing has happened to the Kenai Peninsula landscape. After a few days of sunny, warm, dry weather, wildland fire danger has escalated, and fire crews across the Peninsula are on high alert. Indeed, firefighters from the state Division of Forestry and from area fire departments have been responding to reports of brush fires around the area for several days.

The Division of Forestry suspended open burning on the Peninsula this week. And while campfires are still permitted, they need to be built with extreme caution. That includes using a proper fire ring, with any debris that could be ignited cleared out, and having an adequate water supply on hand to completely extinguish the fire once you’re done. And a fire should never be left unattended.

Caution should extend beyond campfires, though. Remember, the 2007 Caribou Hills fire, which burned a total of 55,438 acres and about 197 structures, including 88 cabins and other homes and 109 outbuildings, started when sparks from a grinder being used to sharpen a shovel ignited dry grass.

Now also is the time to take steps to protect homes and cabins from a potential wildland fire. Homeowners are encouraged to make their property firewise by doing things such as clearing brush and removing, pruning or thinning trees around structures their property. The Division of Forestry has a number of other suggestions for homeowners posted on its website at http://forestry.alaska.gov/pdfs/firewise09.pdf. The Kenai Peninsula Borough also has good information available at http://www.borough.kenai.ak.us/emergency-mgmt/fire.

Fire officials told the Clarion this week that it is imperative to get to a fire while it is still small. The goal is to contain and extinguish any fire within the first hours of ignition; it could take days for crews to contain a larger blaze.

Fire crews are likely to remain on high alert through the middle of June. With little precipitation and more sun in the forecast, the rest of us should be on high alert as well.

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