A ten-foot burn pile sparked a half-acre wildfire on Sunday after a man lost control of it near his Funny River home.
Firefighters were called to the scene at about 1:30 p.m. after the man and his neighbor struggled to contain hot spots that erupted when his controlled burn went awry, said Division of Forestry firefighters on scene.
“It started spotting and he ran out and got water and was trying to knock it down, but he didn’t have adequate water supply,” said Doug Albrecht, with the Division of Forestry.
The home, on a small property off of Robin Avenue, was unscathed and the man was issued a warning for burning without a permit, said Division of Forestry Public Information Officer Andy Alexandrou.
It took several engines, at least 20 firefighting personnel from the Division of Forestry and Central Emergency Services, and two water drops from a helicopter to contain and control the blaze. It was considered contained by 4 p.m., said Wildlife and Resource Technician Mike Hayes.
Long after the visible flames had subsided, firefighters dumped water on the thick, blackened moss on the ground and wetted trees.
“Fires are starting to burn a little deeper now that the moisture levels have dropped,” Hayes said. “As it drops, fire has more places to take.”
No one is calling the Robin Avenue flames “out,” until crews check in on it over the next few days. Hayes said firefighters will check it at least three times to make sure nothing re-ignites.
Earlier in May, a group of mushroom-hunters found a smoldering 20-foot area near Aurora Lake in Funny River. Forestry firefighters responded to what they called a holdover from the mammoth 2014 Funny River wildfire and found heat coming from underneath a layer of peat moss.
Hayes said checking in on an extinguished fire is crucial, especially in areas where the peat moss is thick and can conceal vast root systems for trees. A fire can reappear some distance away from its ignition point after burning underground, he said.
“You think it’s out up here and it’s not out,” he said. “People don’t understand that it can pop right up.”
An aircraft from Palmer was also called down while firefighters worked to control the burn from the ground. Hayes said it did several flybys to make sure the fire didn’t spread into nearby trees.
Forestry has responded to several wildfires during the 2015 season. Many of the 19 fires on the Kenai Peninsula have been human-caused and unattended or escaped fires, according to forestry data.
“If he’d had a burn permit, it would have been beneficial because there is information on it about how to keep a fire contained,” Albrecht said.