Communities all over the peninsula built their own community wildfire protection plans from 2006 to 2009 — 17 of them altogether. Since then, there have been at least four major wildfires that threatened life and property on the peninsula, as well as many small ones. The borough is trying to pull together an area-wide plan that plugs in with the All Lands/All Hands group, which includes the federal agencies, municipalities and other entities that manage land on the Kenai.
Many of the borough’s communities are in what’s known as the wildland-urban interface — essentially, developed areas right on the edge of wild lands. These areas are some of the first threatened when a wildfire pops up, like Cooper Landing during the Swan Lake Fire in 2019. The federal agencies that manage that wild land, like the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Forest Service, work with the borough and cities to manage emergency operations when those fires break out. But with the ongoing outbreak of spruce bark beetles killing mature spruce trees all over the central peninsula, even more developed urban areas like Kenai can be made vulnerable to sparks.
In the end, the document will help guide fire, emergency and land managers on the peninsula, according to the borough. That includes items like fuel reduction, education, emergency planning and recovery.
The borough is asking residents for input on items like how well prepared they feel their communities are for fire, their participation in fire risk reduction, how they think their areas could improve and challenges to fire safety. It also asks residents to rank ideas for projects that could be funded to help communities prepare.
The first public meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, July 20 at the Seward Library from 6-8 p.m. One is scheduled for Wednesday, July 21 in Cooper Landing at the school gym from 6-8 p.m., then one in Homer at the West Homer Elementary School on Friday from 4-6 p.m.
In the central peninsula, there will be an informational booth at Soldotna Progress Days in Soldotna Creek Park from 4-6 on Thursday, July 22, and a public meeting in Nikiski at the Nikiski Community Recreation Center on Saturday, July 24 from 6-8 p.m.
For more information, visit the Kenai Peninsula Borough at kpb.us.