Controlled burn set for Kenai

Posted: Friday, June 21, 2002

ANCHORAGE (AP) -- The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was torching 1,000 acres of black spruce forest Friday near Mystery Creek in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

The remote fire was intended to clear a large fire break in the event that a future Kenai Mountain wildfire threatens the Kenai Peninsula's developed areas, from Sterling west to the city of Kenai, planners said. It is also in the heart of prime moose country, and a fire would trigger growth of prime moose browse such as willow.

Crews and equipment are in place to contain the fire and the weather window -- not too wet, not too dry -- is ideal, said Bill Kent, the refuge's supervisory park ranger.

Last summer, a 1,100-acre prescribed burn near Kenai Lake got out of control and wound up consuming 3,260 acres and threatening buildings. Kent said planners have learned from that experience.

''We're going to make sure this thing is controlled,'' he said. ''We're not going to leave that fire until we're sure it's out, let's put it that way. And during the evening, we'll have field patrolling.''

If all goes well, an additional 2,000 acres south of the burn site may be ignited as well, but Kent described that as less likely.

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