Neighbors pull together

Residents work to control Kasilof wildfire Saturday

Posted: Friday, August 20, 2004

A wildfire in Kasilof made headlines earlier this week, and residents were an integral of part on combating the flames.

"There were men, women and children that live in the community that were already fighting the fire when (the Alaska Division of) Forestry arrived," said Kasilof resident Shawna Wolk.

Wolk herself was among the first few people to notice the fire that broke out around 1 p.m. last Saturday in the Willow Avenue area off Crooked Creek Road.

"I was rounding the corner to go home when I saw a huge plume of black smoke," she said.

She headed toward the fire and, upon arrival, saw fellow Kasilof residents Dave Silva and Pat Shields.

"Pat was already on his cell phone calling it in," Wolk said. She added that Silva went around the subdivision and informed everyone of the danger, while she returned home to get what firefighting supplies she could gather.

Shields said he was notified by a neighbor, who was concerned after seeing the smoke. He drove to inspect the source, and there was no mistaking what he saw.

"It wasn't a campfire or anything else; it was a forest fire. There were flames at the tops of trees, and it had engulfed a structure being built," Shields said.

He yelled to make certain no one was inside the structure then called 911.

"It wasn't long until people started showing up and fighting the fire. It was a strong community response, and not just from the subdivision, but from all over Kasilof," Shields said.

Wolk returned with her teen children, a few empty garbage cans to carry water and several garden hoses. Also, by the time she got back, several other concerned community members were preparing to fight the blaze as best they could.

"There were people on four-wheelers and bikes showing up with buckets and hoses," Wolk said.

"We ran about 2,000 feet of garden hose and starting putting water on it. We used shovels to turn soil. We had guys using chainsaws to cut down fast fuel that was in the path of the fire," Wolk said.

"We tried our best to contain it and fought it for a good hour before the first fire crew showed up."

The Division of Forestry arrived and joined the Kasilof residents in combating the fire. However, before being contained, the flames got within 250 feet of family dwellings, according to Wolk.

"If it had been windy, or on a weekday when no one was around, it could have been a lot worse," she said.

After investigation, the Division of Forestry issued a citation to the party responsible for the fire, as it was determined the man had left a campfire unattended. More than 1.45 acres in all were scorched.

As to the efforts of the folks that fought the fire, Wolk said she wasn't surprised by the sight of neighbors helping neighbors.

"I think it's representative of the Kasilof community. We're a tightknit group and we all pull together when someone needs help," she said.



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