A group of mushroom-hunters found a smoldering holdover from the Funny River wildfire on Sunday.
The 20-foot by 20-foot area was smoking when Alaska Division of Forestry firefighters located it near Aurora Lake in the community of Funny River.
One year ago today, on May 19, the Funny River wildfire ignited near the Funny River Horse Trail. At its peak, at least 700 firefighting personnel were working to contain it and steer it away from communities along the road system on the Kenai Peninsula.
Forestry Fire Management Officer, Howie Kent, said the heat and smoke was coming from underneath the layer of peat moss on the ground and some stump holes.
“It’ll hold heat for a long time and with the light winter that we had, it’s not really surprising,” he said “I kind of anticipated that we were going to have earlier reports of holdover fires out there.”
Four fighters used about 50 gallons of water to smother the hot spot, he said.
Aurora Lake is west of Brown’s Lake in Funny River and the burning area was found at the edge of a fuel break that Division of Forestry put into place several years ago, prior to the Funny River Fire.
“It was within a stone’s throw of the edge of the line, so if a wind came up it could have carried embers out into the green area that hadn’t been burned and that could have posed a real problem.”
Kent said the forestry office would not be looking for new hot spots, but would check on ones that it discovered and extinguished. He said people who discover such spots should report them. “We get a lot of our reports from the public, whether they be recreating or flying our personal aircraft,” he said. “If we get a report, we’ve got a helicopter there and we can take it up real quick, if it’s in a remote area,” Kent said.
Firefighters are most interested in monitoring areas along the parameter of the fire, particularly along the north, west and some of the southwest.
“All of the areas where it adjoins or is adjacent to communities at risk, Funny River, Soldotna and Kasilof,” Kent said.
The interior of the fire poses less of a risk to people and hot spots will likely not require as much attention in those areas.
The eastern edge of the burn is deep in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge and falls into what Kent called a “limited response area.”
As the people recreate in the burned areas, they should watch for hot spots and other dangers like trees with weakened root systems and ash pits.
“One thing we look for when we go out is obviously visible smoke. The other thing we look for is white ash or grey ash,” Kent said. “Usually after rain comes, it turns that grey ash to black and puts the fire out on the surface. Usually white ash will kind of be showing itself on the surface if there’s any heat.”
To report a wildland fire, call 911 or the Soldotna area forestry office at 907-262-4124.
Reach Rashah McChesney at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her on Twitter @Litmuslens