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Deep Creek can’t stop blaze

Caribou Hills cabins, HEA power lines in danger

Posted: Friday, June 22, 2007

 

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  The Caribou Hills fire burns through forest east of Ninilchik on Thursday evening. Firefighters were concentrating their efforts to protect nearby cabins and a Homer Electric Association transmission line. Photo by M. Scott Moon

The Caribou Hills fire burns through forest east of Ninilchik on Thursday evening. Firefighters were concentrating their efforts to protect nearby cabins and a Homer Electric Association transmission line.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Rob Coreson and his children won’t be hunting at their Caribou Hills cabin anymore. The owner of one of the two cabins to erupt in flames so far, he said he’s lost more than $100,000 of snowmachines, four wheelers and rifles to the Caribou Hills fire Wednesday.

“It’s burnt to the ground,” he said. “We bought it framed-in in 2003, we’d just been finishing it, cutting the wood and doing the fix up.”

Coreson and his children used the cabin for hunting, snowmachining and four-wheeling every weekend, he said. He doesn’t believe a spark ignited the blaze and said he would sue whoever was responsible for the fire.

“It’s too hot to burn from a spark,” Coreson said, adding that he believes it was started by a campfire or a clearing fire. “That fire started right below my cabin. No one’s releasing the name right now for some reason,” he said.

The blaze had spread to 12,000 acres by Thursday evening. The Division of Forestry called for ATVs to evacuate Caribou Hills and the Ninilchik 40 subdivision after the fire jumped Deep Creek and North Fork on Thursday evening.

Kris Eriksen, fire information officer for the Division of Forestry, said ground personnel in the vicinity of Caribou Lakes are confident the marshy, wet terrain there will put a damper on the flames in that area.

Sam Albanese, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Anchorage, said humidity in Ninilchik was expected to increase from 30 percent Thursday to more than 45 percent today with a chance of rain Saturday.

“(Firefighters) got the weather in their favor,” he said. “If the forecast holds out it will definitely help them.”

 

A helicopter dips a bucket of water from a small pond to dump on a stretch of the fire burning near the electrical lines.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

Albanese said the weather service expected thunderstorm activity on the Kenai Peninsula, but few storms showed up.

“They’re just not developing down there like we thought they would,” he said, adding that the thunderstorms might have gotten a late start. “It got so late in the day, (Thursday) may be similar in that they’ll start later as well.”

Joe Gallagher, Homer Electric Association spokesperson, said HEA officials were flown into the fire area by helicopter and determined the transmission lines sustained no significant damage.

“There’s some indication on the poles that the fire scorched them,” Gallagher said, “but they don’t seem to be compromised. There are no poles on fire and all the wire and line is intact as well.”

Gallagher said HEA will reactivate the transmission line leading from Bradley Lake to Fritz Creek, which was taken offline Thursday afternoon. The northern section of the line from Bradley Lake to Soldotna will remain offline until further notice.

Eriksen said the fire was active all Wednesday night creating a 40,000-foot high plume of smoke that was visible at midnight.

 

Flames burn beneath a Homer Electric Association transmission line THursday evening east of Ninilchik. The company has removed power from the line until damage can be assessed. Homer customers lost power briefly when the line was powered down but power was quickly restored, an HEA spokesperson said.

Photo by M. Scott Moon

According to the Associated Press, 28 minor fires are burning in the Susitna Valley, as well, leading the Division of Forestry to order 10 hotshot crews from the Lower 48.

“We’re probably going to have a very busy season,” said Assistant State Fire Marshall Rusty Belanger. “I don’t think we’ve even hit the tip of the iceberg yet.”

Meanwhile Coreson is trying to figure out what to do next.

“I’m not in a very good mood right now,” he said. “I’ve lost everything I ever had. It burnt so much all the trees are gone. It’s like a desert right now.”

Jessica Cejnar can be reached at jessica.cejnar@peninsulaclarion.com.



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