Year-end emergency statistics reveal trends, anomalies

This season, Central Peninsula Emergency Services responded to little more than half the number of structure fires that they were called to last year. Between Nov. 1 and the end of December 2014, CES dealt with six structure fires, according to its Health and Safety officer Brad Nelson. During the same period in 2013, CES responded to 11 structure fires. Nelson said that the decrease might be attributable to this winter’s warmer temperatures.

“If I were just to make a very general broad-stroke statement, I’d think that it’s the fact that we haven’t had the need for as much heat (in homes),” said Nelson. “We haven’t seen the chimney fires that we typically see. Normally we have almost one a week. We had one (on Dec. 29), but we hadn’t seen one of those in a while. I’d feel safe making the assumption that the lack of bitter cold has had an effect on that.”

In addition to heating fires, another hazard that has been lessened by the warm winter is frozen pipes — or rather the measures that some homeowners take to prevent them.

“We’ve seen fires from people using arc-welders, or electricity, trying to thaw pipes,” Nelson said. “Heat-tape trying to thaw pipes. They’ll put heaters in their crawl-spaces trying to thaw pipes. So we’ll see a danger from that.”

So far, Nelson said, his department hasn’t seen any pipe-heating fires, or fires caused by the winter hazard of gas mains broken open by falling ice. However, Nelson did find that CES calls for vehicle accidents have increased. Between Sept. 1 and Dec. 31, 2013, CES responded to 34 accidents. During the same span of 2014, CES has been to 49 accidents. Nelson speculated that the frequent freezing and thawing of ice on the road surfaces may have contributed to the accident rate, but said that the increase ran counter to his intuition.

“It just seems like we have not been to as many accidents this year,” said Nelson. “So we were thinking, is it the weather? Is it the safety corridor (the reduced speed-limit area between Soldotna and Sterling)? Is it the fact that we don’t have the ice for fishing so people aren’t coming down here? But then looking at the numbers, we have more (accidents), so I’m not sure how that came off. It sure doesn’t feel like we’ve been to more than we did last year.” Although the number of fire calls has been less than in previous winters, Nelson said that total emergency calls that CES has responded to has increased.

“That’s a trend we’ve been seeing for many, many years now. This year we’re going to go over 2,500 calls. … We are getting busier. It’s just which calls we’re going to,” said Nelson. Much of the increase during the last several years has come from medical calls, which Nelson attributed to the general rise in population on the Kenai Peninsula, particularly the growing number of seniors.

“There are a lot more medical services available now,” said Nelson, “so people in retirement age are sticking around, where before, just to get their medical needs taken care of, they had to move out of the area or out of state. They’re not having to do that anymore, so we’re seeing our retired population grow. Of course that’s going to increase our medical calls.”

According to its public information officer Bud Sexton, the Nikiski Fire Department saw a less dramatic difference than that noticed by CES. Sexton said that Nikiski firefighters responded to 27 fires in all of 2014. In 2013, they responded to 40. Sexton did not think the decrease was significant for his department.

“We don’t have as many (calls) as Kenai or Soldotna just because of the lower number of homes, but so far this winter, we’ve had several different instances of chimney fires and heating-related issues,” said Sexton. “It’s typical for us, as far as what we’ve seen.”

Reach Ben Boettger at

More in News

Stickers are available for voters at the Kenai No. 1 precinct for Election Day on Tuesday, Oct. 5, 2021. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
Soldotna to hold ‘I Voted’ sticker design contest

City council members approved the program during their Wednesday night meeting

Rep. Justin Ruffridge, R-Soldotna, speaks in support of a bill increasing state funds for public education in the Alaska House of Representatives on Thursday, Feb. 22, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Bill seeking to bump use of Alaska Performance Scholarship clears the House with unanimous support

The money is awarded to high-performing high school graduates to help pay for postsecondary education at participating institutions in Alaska

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Ryan Anderson answers questions from state senators during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
State officials working to meet Friday deadline for revised transportation plan

The federal government rejected the plan on Feb. 9, citing numerous deficiencies

Travis Every, top left, speaks in support of fishing opportunity for the east side setnet fishery before the State Board of Fisheries at the Egan Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Local fishers talk conservation, opportunity before Board of Fisheries in Anchorage

Local fishers from the Kenai Peninsula traveled to Anchorage this weekend to… Continue reading

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, presents information on a bill establishing a voluntary buyback program for Cook Inlet’s east side setnet fishery on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Bjorkman bill would pay bonuses to nationally certified teachers

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development estimates that the bonus program would apply to about 215 of Alaska’s estimated 7,315 teachers — about 3%

Alaska senators meet with members of the media to discuss education legislation after a press conference by Gov. Mike Dunleavy on the topic on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
Dunleavy threatens veto of education bill if more of his priorities aren’t added

It is not certain there would be the 40 votes necessary to override a veto by the governor

A map displays a wide-ranging special weather statement, published Tuesday by the National Weather Service, covering Southcentral Alaska. (Map courtesy of National Weather Service)
Strong winds, low wind chills forecast through Friday

Wind chills over night may reach as low as -20 to -40 degrees in much of Southcentral

Snow falls atop the Central Peninsula Diabetes Center in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024. The office opened in October, but a grand opening was held this week. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Central Peninsula Hospital adds Diabetes Center

The center has been seeing patients since October and held a grand opening Monday

Gary Hollier pulls a sockeye salmon from a set gillnet at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Findings from pilot setnet fishery study inconclusive

The study sought to see whether shorter nets could selectively catch sockeye salmon while allowing king salmon to pass below

Most Read