wildfire

Courtesy of Kale Casey

Officials say the Loon Lake Fire outside Sterling is under control and that they have no concerns about it escaping at this time.

Fire crews are finishing up both a hose line to pump in water around the fire and a fireline on its perimeter, said public information officer Kale Casey.

Courtesy of Division of Forestry

Fire crews are containing a lightning-caused wildfire that started a half mile from Swan Lake outside Sterling this weekend.

The Division of Forestry said it intends to fully suppress the fire and is attacking it with water drops and fire retardant. As of Monday afternoon, it had built 15 percent of a containment line around the fire’s perimeter.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

The burn suspension on the Kenai Peninsula has been lifted as of noon today.

The Division of Forestry prohibited burning earlier this week due to dry conditions and hot temperatures. But it said cooler temperatures and forecasted rain have since decreased the wildland fire hazard locally.

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Dry conditions and hot temperatures have turned up the wildfire risk on the Kenai Peninsula this week. The Alaska Division of Forestry issued a burn suspension, effective today.

It's Wildland Fire Prevention and Preparedness Week in Alaska. 

This week, staff from the Division of Forestry talk through past and present efforts to mitigate risk and respond to wildfires locally. In the second half of the show, how individuals can avoid fires in their own lives.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Researchers from the University of Alaska Anchorage and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health are collaborating on a pilot study to better understand the psychological impacts of Alaska wildfires on residents.

They’re looking for adults who lived on the Kenai Peninsula or in Anchorage last summer, during the Swan Lake Fire, to participate in interviews and workshops about how that fire affected their mental health. The study is entitled, “Understanding and Supporting Mental Health and Well-Being in the Context of Intensifying Wildfires in Alaska.”

Casey Lasota/Alaska Division of Forestry

By this time last year, the Kenai Peninsula was starving for rain. This year, we’re getting plenty of it, and that’s keeping wildfires down.

Wildfire danger is low enough that the Alaska Division of Forestry is comfortable sending Alaska’s fire crews out of state to help with fires burning in the Lower 48. Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Tim Mowry said that includes the Kenai Peninsula’s Yukon Crew.

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.

Alaska Division of Forestry

The Kenai Peninsula had its first wildfire of the season Wednesday

Firefighters from the Alaska Division of Forestry and Homer Volunteer Fire Department responded to a small grass fire off East End Road near Homer on Wednesday afternoon.

A person on the scene told firefighters he had discarded a cigarette butt in the grass and put it out with his foot. He left and came back a few minutes later and saw the grass burning, so called the fire department, which in turn called Forestry.

Alaska Division of Forestry

Here are two crises that are bad enough on their own — a worldwide pandemic and wildfires.

The Alaska Division of Forestry is taking proactive steps to try to prevent those two situations from overlapping. 

Forestry announced Tuesday that all burn permits in the state will be suspended May 1. This is applicable to small- and large-scale burning on state, municipal and private lands.

How’s the health of the trees is your neck of the woods? Find out, with the help of retired silviculturist (fancy forester) Mitch Michaud.

Alaska Division of Forestry

As the Swan Lake Fire east of Sterling continues to grow, the Alaska Division of Forestry is stepping up management efforts. Not to the level of fighting the fire yet, but getting ready in case suppression efforts become necessary.

“Most of that new growth was on the northeast and northwest, away from the Sterling Highway,” said Sarah Saarloos, public information officer with the Alaska Division of Forestry. “And it’s still sitting at about 5.5, 6 miles as the crow flies away from the Sterling community. There is at this time no threat to the sterling community.”

Spring time in Alaska also means it's fire season. On this week's Kenai Conversation, we'll talk with Dan Nelson, Emergency Manager for the Kenai Peninsula Borough, about the recent fires that triggered the start of the season, evacuation protocol during a fire and some of the things homeowners can do to prepare for the season if they haven't already. 


Fire season underway on Kenai Peninsula

Apr 30, 2019

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.

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

The July rush is in full swing, with residents and visitors trying to cram in as much summer activity as possible. But one aspect of Kenai Peninsula life has been quieter than usual this year — wildfire season.


On this week's Kenai Conversation we find out how interconnected the natural world is on the Kenai Peninsula when we welcome retired Kenai National Wildlife Refuge ecologist Ed Berg and the refuge’s John Morton, the supervisory wildlife biolgogist to talk about how a warming climate has shrunk lakes and ponds, caused an increase in wildfires and an explostion in the moose population.

People can question climate change all they want, but according to a couple Kenai Peninsula scientists, one change in the climate in 1968-69 might be exactly why there is an abundance of moose in our back yard today.

Exactly how interconnected the natural world is on the Kenai Peninsula became obvious when KDLL welcomed retired Kenai National Wildlife Refuge ecologist Ed Berg and the refuge’s John Morton, the supervisory biologist to the studio.

East Fork Fire at 1,150 acres, community meeting tonight

Jun 19, 2017
Alaska State Division of Forestry

 

 

The East Fork Fire burning near Sterling is now estimated at about 1,100 acres. It remains 4.5 miles from the Sterling Highway and 3.5 miles from the nearest residential neighborhoods.

 

Celeste Prescott is a public information officer for the state Division of Forestry. She says that crews battled the wind over the weekend to keep the fire burning within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

 

Jenny Neyman/KDLL

Fire crews are still at work on the East Fork Fire, burning in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge near Sterling. It started as a result of lightning in the area Thursday evening. The fire isn't posing immediate threats to life or property and will be monitored closely as it moves deeper into the refuge.

East Fork Fire Burns 150 Acres Near Sterling

Jun 15, 2017
Alaska State Division of Forestry

 

 

A wildland fire broke out on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge just north of Sterling on Thursday evening. As of 10 p.m., the East Fork Fire was estimated to be roughly 150 acres in size.