Fire season underway on Kenai Peninsula

Apr 30, 2019

Cool, wet conditions can change quickly elevating fire danger this time of year, until underlying grasses and other fuels have fully greened up for the season.

Fire season is definitely here. The state Division of Forestry has put a burn ban in effect for the Kenai Peninsula, as the slow march toward green up continues.

More than a dozen wildfires popped up across the state over the weekend, including five on the Peninsula. Area Forester Hans Rinks says the largest one was in Ninilchik.

“All of those fires were human caused.”

The fire in Ninilchik was only two and a half acres and was contained in a few hours, but an evacuation notice had to be issued. Fire conditions can change quickly this time of year. Rinke says they get daily forecasts and try to relay that information daily as well, notably on signs featuring Smoky the Bear that show the scale of fire danger.

“We use predictive services. We have an office in Fairbanks that has a couple meteorologists and they produce a fire-specific weather forecast, and daily, we determine on all those signs, about a dozen different spots, the predicted fire danger for that day. It is a prediction. It can be higher or lower than what’s on those signs but we try to keep those very current so the public has a real good idea what the fire danger is any given day.”

He says this is a good time to reassess Fire Wise strategies around homes and make sure there’s defensible space. But be careful how that space is created.

“Sometimes people think the way to get rid of that is burning that debris or land clearing, which it can be. But we need to wait for an opportune time to do that, either when we have rain or snow or when we have fall or early spring conditions. Summer time can be fine for that, too, it just has to be the right conditions. It takes a little more work for the landowner, so to speak, maybe keep that pile covered as (part of) best practices.”

Fire danger has been moderate to high the past few days. The forecast for the next few days looks helpful, calling for cloudy skies, cool temperatures and good chance for rain for most of the week.