Homer Alaska - News

Story last updated at 7:14 PM on Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Firefighters battle small wildfires


Cloudy weather and rain didn't stop wildfires from breaking out last weekend, including two in the Homer area and one in Anchor Point. Firefighters have fought five wildland fires on the Kenai Peninsula since last Friday.

Two people suffered minor burns and had to be treated at South Peninsula Hospital last Friday when they tried to fight one fire themselves. The fires threatened cabins and sheds, but no structures were lost.

In the Kachemak Emergency Services area, crews fought two wildfires back-to-back starting at 6 p.m. last Friday. The first fire started at a Brenmark Road home off East End Road when a grass fire blew up with 5-foot flames. That fire injured two people and torched .04 acres. Alaska Division of Forestry firefighters helped keep the fire from spreading to a chicken coop and a shed, said KES Fire Chief Bob Cicciarella.

Crews had just made it back to the KES station at McNeil Canyon when a second page came at 7:30 p.m. of a grass fire on Sandford Court off East Skyline Drive. Fire trucks from McNeil and the Ruth Way station off Diamond Ridge Road responded, with State Forestry firefighters also assisting. Firefighters had to hike down a four-wheeler trail to get to that fire.

"We were humping gear, hose and tools down the hill," Cicciarella said.

That fire jumped the trail and threatened two cabins, but crews saved the homes though flames came within 20 feet of one cabin. It burned about 1 acre. Snow was in patches at the Sandford Court fire, but the area was mostly clear.

"It's really dry," Cicciarella said. "What's amazing about this is the relative humidity is between 40 and 50 percent and the fires are still starting with those kind of conditions. People really need to be extra careful."

The Sandford Road fire appeared to have spread from a campfire, Cicciarella said. The cause of both fires is under investigation.

KES and State Forestry also helped Anchor Point EMS respond to a fire in a remote area near Tall Tree Road north of Anchor Point that started about 6:40 p.m. Monday. That burned 1.1 acres. Four of the five fires started in the evening and were caused by residents themselves, said Sharon Roesch, a fire prevention officer with State Forestry. Two fires started from campfires, one from grass being burned in a garden and one from wood stove ashes. Heavily matted grass can get dry quickly and doesn't receive rain on lower levels.

As of Wednesday, open burning remained suspended after noon daily. Burning is allowed between 6 a.m. and noon if conditions allow. During fire season, all open burning requires a permit. Call the Homer Volunteer Fire Department at 235-3155 for permits in the city of Homer and State Forestry at 235-7734 for all other areas. Conditions should be checked before burning. Campfires are not suspended, but people should use extreme caution with campfires. Burn only on bare soil, with a clear area around fires. Do not burn near driftwood piles or dry grass on the beach. Fully extinguish campfires before leaving.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.armstrong@homernews.com.