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Neighbors fuming over plans

Mackey Lakes residents wary of Hotshot camp at CES station

Posted: Thursday, April 03, 2008

 

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  A CES firefighter trains a hose on flames inside the structure. Photo by M. Scott Moon

Central Emergency Services firefighters work on a structural fire simulator behind the Mackey Lake fire station in 2006. Neighbors are concerned about future plans for the station.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

A group of Mackey Lakes residents have called for a meeting with the borough to find out what's going on at the Central Emergency Services training facility in their neighborhood.

According to one home-owner, Dan Furlong, CES is going to lease part of its land to the Bureau of Land Management for a seasonal camp for Hotshot fire crews to be based on the Kenai Peninsula during the height of the fire season the next five years.

A meeting is planned for 6 p.m. this evening at the CES fire station on Mackey Lakes Road north of the Sterling Highway just outside Soldotna.

 

A CES firefighter trains a hose on flames inside the structure.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

In a memo Kenai Peninsula Borough Land Management Officer Marcus Mueller sent March 14 to Borough Mayor John Williams and CES Chief Chris Mokracek, a contract is being negotiated with Chugachmiut firefighters and the Alaska Division of Forestry to place two 10-person Hotshot fire crews on the peninsula to respond to wildfires.

When not fighting wildfires, the Hotshot crews would be doing hazard mitigation work on the Kenai Peninsula.

CES and borough Land Management officials met with Chugachmiut Fire Crew representatives to look at the possibility of siting the camp behind the Mackey Lakes fire station.

On land leased from the borough, the camp would consist of five mobile home trailers on a building pad with a driveway leading to the camp, a water well and septic system and electric service extended to the camp.

"It's still in the development stages," Chief Mokracek said on Wednesday. "No permits have been pulled yet."

He said if the camp is placed at the Mackey Lakes station, it would be "tucked out of the way," completely out of view of people in the neighborhood.

"We're still anticipating a bad fire season," Mokracek said. "We like having the resource."

Currently, the Mackey Lakes station houses one reserve fire engine and the area is used by CES for live fire training.

If the Hotshot camp is built, it would bring in a water well, which would be a desirable added source of firefighting water for CES. Additional fire training areas would be opened up for CES use when the camp is not occupied.

Furlong said Mackey Lakes residents voted some 20 years ago to bring in the fire station, but in the past 1 1/2 years, he said CES has brought in Conex boxes and junk cars to use for fire training.

"That was not our intent," Furlong said.

"The borough wants to put in well and septic and a trailer camp next door to a nice residential neighborhood," he said.

He also said he wonders who will be doing background checks on the Hotshot firefighters.

"A group of transient firefighters is not favorable," he said.

Mokracek said the Hotshot crews based on the Kenai Peninsula would not be "convict crews like they use in the Lower 48."

Furlong also wants to know why the fire camp is not being sited on the 33 acres the state forestry division owns on the Sterling Highway near its junction with Mackey Lakes Road.

"They could walk from their beds to the helicopters there," he said.

Of the approximate 100 people who reside in the Mackey Lakes areas, Furlong said he expects 15 to 20 to attend tonight's meeting.

Phil Hermanek can be reached at phillip.hermanek@peninsulaclarion.com.



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