Weekend showers have brought some much needed moisture to the Kenai Peninsula, knocking down some of the dust and pollen that has been blowing around and helping with the area’s wildfire risk.
However, forecasters are calling for more sunny skies and warm temperatures in the coming week, and while that makes for a nice run-up to the holiday weekend, it also means that things can dry out fast. Firefighters have responded to a number of small burns around the central Kenai Peninsula this season, and with the recent Card Street and Funny River wildfires still fresh in our minds, we urge everyone planning to light a fire — whether a campfire or debris burn — to use appropriate caution.
Take into consideration these fire safety recommendations from the state Division of forestry:
— Watch for vegetation on or touching hot parts of the engine or exhaust of an ATV or off-road vehicle that can cause a fire. Be vigilant if riding in a grassy area. The same caution goes for lawnmowers and chainsaws.
— Don’t use barbecue grills on a grass surface and dispose of ashes or coals in a safe place (i.e. fireproof container) when done cooking.
— Make sure your burn barrel is approved (forestry.alaska.gov/burn/) or you must obtain a burn permit. Be certain items are completely burned and do not let the fire smolder. Do not leave an active burn barrel unattended.
— Keep campfires small (under 3 feet in diameter) and in a spot where the fire cannot spread. Select a spot on gravel, sand or bare soil well away from trees, moss, brush and dry grass. Never leave a campfire unattended. Make sure fires are completely out by drowning them with water and stirring them with a stick until they are cold to the touch.
— Conditions are dry enough that a discarded cigarette butt in grass or vegetation could start a fire. Extinguish any cigarette fully before discarding.
— Avoid areas where sparks and/or discharge of hot burning metal from cutting, grinding or welding can ignite anything flammable.
— Permits are required for debris burning and burning is not allowed when a burn suspension is in place. If burning is allowed, permit holders are required to follow the safe burning practices listed on their permit. Never leave a burn pile unattended and have water and tools to keep the fire in check. Call your local forestry office at 907-260-4269 or go online at forestry.alaska.gov/burn to see if burning is allowed in your area.
— Using firearms with tracer rounds can start a fire in dry vegetation, as can ricochets from steel core shells on rocks or metal.
— Fireworks are illegal on the Kenai Peninsula, and should not be used over forest or dry grass.
— Trailer safety chains dragging on or hitting the road can send sparks and/or small, burning pieces of metal into grass along the side of the road or in ditches.
As Smokey Bear says, “Only you can prevent forest fires.” We have avoided a major wildfire on the peninsula so far this summer; please continue to use caution in the days and weeks to come.