Fire Officials Urge Caution as Kenai Peninsula Holdover Fires Pop Up
Memorial day Weekend marks the unofficial start of summer in Alaska and with it comes increased wildfire activity. Tim Mowry with the Alaska Division of Forestry says it’s incredibly dry on the Kenai Peninsula and they’re finding holdover fires from last year and the year before.
“The Kenai, the northern Kenai especially, is still very dry. You know they’ve been finding holdover fires here the last few days. They found two or three holdover fires from the Card Street Fire and they even found one the other day from the Funny River Fire two years ago. That’s a sign things are pretty dry," said Mowry.
Mowry says fire officials are urging the public to be extra careful this weekend.
“This is the first big weekend of the summer and a lot of people are going to be out and about doing different things, camping, recreating, four-wheeling. We just ask people to be alert and use common sense when it comes to anything that could start a wildfire. Keep your campfires small; never leave a fire unattended of any kind,” said Mowry.
So far this year, Mowry says, there have been 43 fires on the Kenai Peninsula.
“Of those 43 fires, they’ve only burned 5.6 acres and that’s in large part because the forestry staff in Kenai responds quickly to prevent them from spreading. They are, especially on the Kenai, are very conscious having had the Funny River Fire in 2014 and having the Card Street Fire last year, those guys are pretty ‘Johnny on the spot’ when they get a fire call,” said Mowry.
In 2015, the Card Street Fire burned somewhere around 7,000 acres and in 2014, the Funny River Fire burned nearly 200,000 acres.
Mowry says most of the fires on the Kenai this year have been human caused. They’re asking citizens to practice prevention and be extra careful over this weekend.
“We’ve had five lightning fires and the rest of these have been human-caused and human-caused fire is preventable,” said Mowry.
Statewide, Mowry says, Alaska has already had 150 wildfires reported this year. All those blazes have been small and quickly brought under control. And they want to keep it that way.
Fire officials are asking people to follow these rules to prevent fires this weekend:
· Never leave a fire of any kind unattended.
· Keep campfires small and away from grasses and other vegetation that can catch fire.
· Make sure campfires are completely extinguished before leaving them by drowning with water and stirring until they are cold to the touch.
· Have tools and water on site to prevent fires from escaping.
· Dispose of barbecue ashes or coals in a fireproof container; do not dump them in the woods.
· And call 911 immediately if there is a wildland fire emergency.