Smoke reduced visibility and slowed traffic along a mile-long stretch of the Kenai Spur Highway Monday, as a half dozen slash piles were set ablaze.
Strong winds fanned the flames and blew the smoke west across the highway.
The slash is from a project to clear beetle-killed spruce trees from a lot the city of Kenai refers to as Section 36.
Far North Firewood and Timber owner John Bierdeman has been clearing Section 36 for over a year through a no-cost deal with the city, said Kim Howard, assistant to Kenai City Manager Rick Ross. She said the deal is much like the one the city has with ArcTech Services. In exchange for the timber, the companies were not charged for their special-use permit or for the trees.
ArcTech previously cleared an area of beetle-kill near the Kenai Golf Course and is doing the same in the Inlet Woods Subdivision. The Kenai Fire Department issued a burn permit to destroy the slash from the Section 36 and Inlet Woods logging operations on Monday.
"The contractor came in and cleared the beetle-kill to prevent wild land fire," said fire department Capt. William Furlong. "They're burning the leftover slash this time of year because the fire danger is pretty low."
The slash and burn is part of Project Impact's FireWise program.
"We're very proud of this program," said Project Impact coordinator Kathy Scott. "It's our third project with the city of Kenai and the fourth on the central peninsula."
The fourth project is off of Ciechanski Road in the River Hills and Wind Ridge subdivisions.
"Ciechanski is different than (the projects in) Kenai," Scott said. "The city really partnered with contractors, but on Ciechanski it's a real grass-roots project.
"The neighbors joined with Central Emergency Services and talked about how to rid themselves of the heavy fuel load from spruce bark beetle killed trees."
Scott said the smoke from burning slash produced by the harvesting of beetle-killed trees could be reduced in the future, as the Kenai Peninsula Borough's Spruce Bark Beetle Task Force has bought a wood chipper and is working with Project Impact on some FireWise programs.
"With the chipper, they can turn the slash into something," Scott said.
In the meantime, motorists and residents may still get a whiff of wood smoke as piles of slash are sent up in flames along the North Road. The burn permit for Section 36 and Inlet Woods is good through June 30.
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