Weather Service issues fire warnings for Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak

Posted: Wednesday, August 16, 2000

SOLDOTNA (AP) -- The Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak Island are facing a wildfire alert as unusually windy and dry conditions persist well into August, which is supposed to be the rainy season for much of Alaska.

The National Weather Service on Tuesday issued what it calls a ''red flag warning'' for the peninsula and Kodiak Island. That's the most severe wildland fire warning issued by the weather service, and it means fires could be difficult to control if they do break out.

Winds gusting to 35 mph and relative humidity hovering near 17 percent -- significantly lower than the usual 50 percent -- combined to put state Division of Forestry fire managers on alert. They're especially concerned because many of their crews are battling wildfires in the Lower 48.

But little occurred on the peninsula Tuesday aside from a windblown tree striking power lines and igniting briefly at Nikiski, said Tom Marok, Forestry's logistics coordinator for the peninsula and Kodiak.

The division has a small force stationed on the peninsula and could stage a minimal initial attack, Marok said.

''We're just keeping our fingers crossed,'' he told the Anchorage Daily News. ''The weather we're having right now, for August, is highly unusual. But nice.''

The Kenai Peninsula has been drier this month than Anchorage or the Matanuska-Susitna valleys, which is why those areas did not get the same red flag warning, forecasters said.

Much of the peninsula's summer greenery is starting to dry as fall approaches, Marok said. Tinder-dry grasses are a concern at Kodiak, he said.

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