Firefighters responded to a fire on Monday around 4:00 p.m. near Jim Howard Road, between Anchor Point and Nikolaevsk. Alaska Division of Forestry Fire Management Officer Howie Kent said that the fire burned about five acres before it was contained on Tuesday by the efforts of 38 firefighters and two aircraft. The Division of Forestry is still watching the burnt area.
“We put it in monitor status, and that allows us to go back and patrol the fire a couple of times before we officially call it ‘out,’ just to be sure that there isn’t going to be anything rekindled or come back to life on us,” Kent said.
Kent said the fire originated as an “escaped debris burn.” Although the fire starters had a Division of Forestry burn permit — which allows holders to burn debris piles up to four feet high and 10 feet in diameter, as well as one-acre fields with grass up to four inches high — Kent said the fire spread as a result of negligence.
“They weren’t in attendance of their fire,” Kent said. “The wind essentially came up and carried it off while they weren’t watching it.”
Kent said the firestarters were served a citation Thursday, but the exact consequences of the incident will be “worked out between the court system and them.”
“A citation is usually a felony, but it depends on the severity of it,” Kent said. “They basically broke one statute: leaving a fire unattended. So it could just result in a misdemeanor, but that’s not for us to decide.”
The 38 responders included eight members of the Anchor Point Fire Department, 10 from Kachemak Emergency Services, and 20 from the Division of Forestry, in addition to the two pilots of the aircraft that Kent said were deployed because of the rapid spread of the fire.
“We ended up having to call in a retardant air tanker to drop retardant on the fire, which can be fairly expensive,” Kent said. “Then we also used a helicopter, our Bell 2-12.”
The helicopter was based in Soldotna, and the air-tanker flew in from the Division of Forestry’s Coastal Aviation Office in Palmer.
The fire took place in an inhabited area, where Kent estimated that between six to eight structures, including residences and outbuildings, were threatened. Kent said the Division of Forestry didn’t issue an evacuation order because the fire was contained before an evacuation was necessary.