The Alaska Division of Forestry’s White Mountain crew responds to a fire burning near Milepost 46.5 of the Sterling Highway on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, near Cooper Landing, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Cooper Landing Emergency Services)

The Alaska Division of Forestry’s White Mountain crew responds to a fire burning near Milepost 46.5 of the Sterling Highway on Tuesday, May 10, 2022, near Cooper Landing, Alaska. (Photo courtesy Cooper Landing Emergency Services)

Officials encourage residents to firewise homes

The central peninsula has already had its first reported fires of the season

As fire season approaches on the Kenai Peninsula, officials are encouraging residents to do what they can to keep themselves and their property safe.

John Winters, the area stewardship forester with the Alaska Division of Forestry, said Friday that there are lots of ways for people to firewise their homes.

Any fire-receptive or dead vegetation, as well as debris, should be removed fully or be at least 30 feet away from the edge of a home. That includes dead leaves in the lawn and in gutters, as well as any rogue trees or branches touching or nearly touching a home.

In 2019 Winters responded to a fire in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley that he said could have been less severe if people had taken a few more cautionary measures.

“There was likely inadequate defense space,” Winters said, meaning flammable organic materials were left in close proximity to the sides of houses.

The central peninsula has already had its first reported fires of the season, which included the Kenai Lake Overlook Fire near Wildman’s in Cooper Landing that began Tuesday. Another Cooper Landing fire broke out Sunday.

Winters also emphasized the importance of storing inorganic flammable materials, including solvents, paints and plastic and rubber products. These materials emit toxic fumes when burned, which can be harmful to residents in the area, as well as fire crews. He said wildland firefighters don’t generally respond to a blaze with respiratory protection.

Another way to firewise a property, he said, is through yard upkeep. Planting non-fire receptive vegetation like flowers, as well as keeping lawns mowed, fertilized and watered, can really help.

Beyond preventative measures, Winter said it’s important for households to have an evacuation plan in the event of a fire. Exits in the house, as well as a plan for meeting up with other household members should be considered.

“Those sorts of actions are important too,” he said.

Perhaps most importantly, Winters said, is diligently maintaining personal fires — whether it be a campfire or a burn pile that calls for a permit.

“In the end, they’re still responsible for keeping it under control,” he said.

For more information, visit firewise.org or contact the Division of Forestry Kenai/Kodiak office at 907-260-4200.

Reach reporter Camille Botello at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com.

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