U.S. Forest Service

Most of the Kenai Peninsula, and most of Southcentral Alaska, is covered by what’s called boreal forest. The forests are dominated by birch, cottonwood, alder and spruce, as well as a handful of other species. That's not a huge amount of biodiversity but boreal forests are home to several different kinds of spruce trees.

On the western peninsula, it’s mostly black spruce, which are the spindly, Nightmare Before Christmas-esque conifer trees growing in wetlands. But white spruce also grow in the Kenai-Soldotna area.

Alaska Division of Forestry

The first ghost of the Swan Lake Fire showed up on Tuesday east of Soldotna.

With big wildland fires that burn deep into the terrain, pockets of hot material can remain, even into the next year. These hotspots can then ignite and cause a secondary burn, called a holdover fire.

Spruce bark beetles on the move

Jun 15, 2020
Elizabeth Earl / KDLL

Spring and summer weather gets people out of their houses and working on their property, preparing their homes for wildfire season, clearing trees. But it is not the time to cut live spruce trees.

This is the time of year when spruce bark beetles move from infested trees and fly to new host trees. From mid-May until mid-July when temperatures are above 60° F, the beetles move from the layer between the bark and wood of infested trees, seeking new trees to lay their eggs. Howard Kent is the Fire Management Officer for the Kenai/Kodiak Office of the Division of Forestry.

Zak Overmeyer/Alaska Division of Forestry

With the coronavirus pandemic creating difficulty in getting wildland firefighting personnel and equipment to the state this year, not to mention challenges in training and housing crews with social distancing requirements, the Alaska Division of Forestry wants to prevent human-caused fires as much as possible.

Couple that with the fact that spring conditions in between snowmelt and green-up create high fire danger, Forestry issued a statewide burn ban that went into effect Friday.

Apparently, that message was not very well received, as Forestry responded to 14 wildfires around the state over the weekend. Most were the result of burning activities that are now banned, including burn barrels and debris piles.

Alaska Division of Forestry/Howie Kent

Alaska Division of Forestry firefighters responded to two small fires on the Kenai Peninsula on Thursday. The Robinson Fire, near Sterling, started from an escaped debris burn that ignited nearby grass Thursday afternoon. It was quickly brought under control but is a reminder that fire season is upon us. Even though snow covered the ground not long along, warm days and wind are drying things out quickly, especially before green-up.

In Homer, firefighters put out an escaped debris burn on Grewingk Street off Skyline Drive on Thursday afternoon.