Recent rains not enough for dry conditions

Fire danger lingers

Posted: Monday, June 30, 2003

Summer is here, and with it comes wildfire season.

Though dark clouds have hung over the Kenai Peninsula much of the last two weeks brining occasional rain showers, that's no reason for residents and visitors to ignore fire dangers, said Sharon Roesch, spokesperson for the Alaska Division of Forestry.

Looks can be deceiving, she said. The clouds haven't brought as much rain as people might think, and brush on the peninsula can dry out in as little as a day.

"People think, 'Oh, it's been raining lately,'" she said. "That's not necessarily true. We've had spotty rains, but no low pressure front bringing significant rain to the peninsula."

She said campers especially need to be aware of the dangers of a wildfire.

Campfires are allowed on the peninsula, but only in properly constructed fire rings. Fires should not be ignited if the wind is blowing, as embers can travel many miles setting off a blaze in dry vegetation.

Fires also should be supervised at all times and completely extinguish before being abandoned, she said.

Residents also need to be aware of the dangers of outdoor burning. Outdoor burning is allowed only with a permit, and residents should call to check conditions before lighting a fire. Burn piles also should be supervised with the same care as a campfire and should be extinguished completely rather than being left to smolder.

Roesch said residents should be using the lull in the fire season to prepare their homes for the possibility of wildfires.

"When it's raining, it's too wet to fix your roof. And when it's not raining, you don't think you need to fix your roof," she said.

Fire danger often is the same. "If you don't see smoke, you forget to protect your home," she said.

Defensible space around homes and outbuildings is a must to protect property from wildfire damage, she said.

Such space can protect homes and outbuildings from catching fire in the first place and, if a building does ignite, can offer firefighters a reasonable chance of saving the buildings, she said. Also, she said, well-planned, fire-safe neighborhoods can provide a safe zone in the event of a wildfire.

The Division of Forestry provides a checklist for homeowners to use to prepare their property for wildfire protection. Among the tips are:

Clear all branches from over the roof and within 10 feet of a chimney.

Clear leaves and needles from roofs and gutters.

Create a 30-foot radius of "defensible space," removing flammable vegetation and planting fire resistant species.

Prune the bottom six feet of all tall trees.

Reduce underbrush in densely wooded areas.

Stack woodpiles at least 30 feet away from structures.

Clearly mark all emergency water sources.

Identify at least two exit routs from your neighborhood.

Clear flammable vegetation at least 10 feet from roadways and five feet from driveways to allow emergency vehicle access in the event of a wildfire.

Clearly post your street name and house number at the beginning of your driveway and on your house.

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