2 separate wildfires ignited, contained

Posted: Thursday, May 28, 2009

Two separate wildland fires were accidentally started Tuesday on the Kenai Peninsula, but both were quickly contained.

"The call came in at 6:26 p.m.," said Gordon Orth assistant fire chief at Central Emergency Services in Soldotna, in regard to a fire on Dow Island in the Kenai Keys area.

"Two structures were threatened and residents were helping contain the fire with portable pumps they had dropped in the river. They did a good job," Orth said.

The residents' efforts were not enough by themselves though, and CES and Alaska Division of Forestry personnel responded.

"We had Engine 5 from Funny River, two brush units, a tanker, a medic and a command unit," Orth said.

Sharon Roesch, fire prevention officer with state Forestry, said they responded with four units, as well. A Forestry helicopter also was overhead, but was not needed as the fire was quickly brought under control within an hour by the combined efforts of the 16 responders from the two agencies.

"There was no structural damage, just a half acre of vegetation burned, after a spark from a welder started the fire," she said.

The second fire, which began on Hubbard Lane off East End Road in Homer, also began as a result of a stray spark, according to Roesch.

"A chain saw spark landed in some punky wood and started a small fire, less than one-tenth of an acre. The land owners worked hard to contain it," she said.

Roesch said people need to be conscious of the vegetation around them, particularly at this time of year when so much is brown and dry. She said even when attempting to make things "lean, clean and green," people should still take precautions for the worst.

"People doing this type of work aren't expecting a fire, so they may not have water readily available and on site, but one spark is all it takes. It was a spark from a grinder that started the Caribou Hills fire of '07," she said.

The Caribou Hills fire burned more than 55,000 acres of wilderness in 2007, and devoured nearly 200 known structures, including cabins and outbuildings. Although, the exact number of buildings destroyed may never be known as the Caribou Hills area is a popular destination for snowmachine enthusiasts who, over the years, have built many small overnight cabins without permits or other documentation.

Joseph Robertia can be reached at joseph.robertia@peninsulaclarion.com.



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