Flames and smoke are shown billowing out of the bedroom window in a trailer on South Willow Street in Kenai on Sunday. The fire consumed about a third of the structure. Other parts of the structure sustained major smoke and heat damage.
Photo by Fred Braun
Despite the influx of people from out of the area coming to the Kenai Peninsula to fish or camp, emergency officials say there were very few incidents involving crime or fire this Memorial Day weekend.
Alaska State Trooper Lt. Dane Gilmore said that though there were a “few hundred” calls for service and one injury accident, there were no fatalities or sexual assaults reported.
“The extra enforcement efforts and visits to campgrounds prevented a lot from happening,” he said.
In the past several injury accidents, fatalities and felony and sexual assaults would have been standard Memorial Day procedure.
“One injury accident and three minor accidents (with) no fatalities is a substantial improvement over years past,” he said.
Megan Peters, trooper public informations officer, said the DUI Enforcement Team based out of Palmer wrote 120 tickets, only two of which were DUIs.
Despite the relatively slow weekend, firefighters at the Kenai Fire Department and Central Emergency Services had to contend with two fires that took place Sunday afternoon and Monday evening, respectively.
The first fire, in Kenai, started in the bedroom of a trailer behind 260 S. Willow St.
Kenai Fire Chief Michael Tilly said the fire consumed roughly a third of the 44-foot trailer until firefighters were able to put it out. Though firefighters were able to isolate the fire in the room of origin, Tilly said the structure sustained a lot of heat and smoke damage.
The residents weren’t inside when the fire started, but Tilly said they were in the general vicinity when one of them noticed smoke and made an attempt to put it out.
The cause of the fire is still under investigation, it took firefighters approximately 10 minutes to put it out, Tilly said.
Black smoke was coming out of one of the transfer bins at the Sterling Transfer Facility when CES responded just after 7 p.m. Monday.
Capt. Lesley Quelland, who was in charge of the responding shift, said the last person at the transfer facility Monday was the tenant who was painting the yellow guardrails near the bins.“We had fresh yellow paint on our hands,” Quelland said, “so we knew she was telling the truth.”
Because there is no public entrance to the facility and the tenant locked the gates before she left for the night, Quelland suspects the fire was caused by something in the bins that was smoldering and given enough oxygen to flame up. The black smoke was caused by rubber matts, she said, and hot enough to melt the lights and paint in the structure. It also caused smoke damage.
Quelland said it took about five minutes to put the fire out.
Marie Vinson, the Solid Waste Management contract administrator for the Kenai Peninsula Solid Waste Department, said she wouldn’t know the extent of the damage in dollars until next week.
It was a fairly damp weekend, according to Sharon Roesch, fire prevention officer for the Alaska Division of Forestry in Soldotna. Roesch said fire danger for areas east of Soldotna, especially Cooper Landing, is still high.
“Between us and the state parks we had a few smoldering campfires that people left,” she said. “We put those out.”
The weather forecast calls for continued showers, but there will be strong winds, Roesch said.
“Winds are very drying, especially if it comes from the east or northeast. If it isn’t raining, not just droplets, you’re fuel is dry enough to burn.”
The area between Kenai and Homer saw some rain, but Roesch said the fire danger is still moderate. The dry grass is still prevalent enough to ignite and quickly carry a fire.
“(We) haven’t had a lot of cumulative precipitation,” she said. “(We) caution people not to not to expect scattered droplets or rain to put (a fire) out. Unless you actively work the water into the fire it won’t put it out. Embers will smolder underneath the surface.”
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