The agencies tasked with responding to wildland fires on the Kenai Peninsula and across Alaska already are gearing up for fire season. Kenai Peninsula residents should be following their lead and preparing for another season of increased fire activity, too.
The Alaska Division of Forestry already has issued an announcement urging caution when burning yard debris — even though burn permits aren’t usually required until April 1. And the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center in its monthly outlook is expecting increased fire activity in April and May due to warmer temperatures and a lack of snowcover, which means fuels such as dry grass will be exposed weeks earlier than normal.
With many homeowners already starting their spring cleanup, here are a few quick FireWise ideas to help protect your home from the eventuality of an encroaching fire:
— Clear all dead or dry vegetation from the sides of homes and replace with small plants, flowers or gravel;
— Within 15 to 30 feet of a home, remove shrubs beneath trees, prune tree limbs and remove dead vegetation;
— Keep a well-watered lawn trimmed to three inches or less, trees should be healthy and watered often, dispose of flammable materials on property, clear the area under stairs and decks of debris, clean roofs and gutters;
— Keep garden hoses and fire tools like shovels or rakes readily available. Keep storage areas clean and clear of oily rags, newspapers, or other combustibles;
— Have a fire plan — locate the nearest fire station, test smoke detectors and keep fire extinguisher current. Most importantly clean chimneys and stovepipes regularly;
— Make sure you have an easily accessible water supply on hand for emergency situations.
You can find more FireWise program information at forestry.alaska.gov/wildland.htm.
Likewise, with sunny days and warmer temperatures, many peninsula residents are getting back outdoors. If you’re planning to start a campfire as part of your outdoor activity — or if you’re planning to burn the debris that blew down during the winter — the Division of Forestry asks that you be sure to follow all the same precautions you’d follow in the middle of summer:
— Prior to lighting a fire, make sure that there is a fuel break surrounding the fire wide enough to contain it. The fuel break should be cleared to mineral soil. This is especially important due to lack of snow cover.
— Make sure to have sufficient tools and water on hand to prevent the fire from spreading out of control.
— Avoid burning when winds are at 10 miles per hour or higher
— Always attend the fire until it is out.
The Kenai Peninsula has had major wildland fires in each of the past two summers. Some factors are out of our control — lightning strikes started fires near Cooper Landing last summer — but following some basic guidelines can reduce the risk of a human-caused fire, and preparing property can greatly increase the chances of making it through a fire unscathed. Let’s make sure we’re just as prepared as fire crews for the upcoming season.