Firefighter crews from the U.S. Coast Guard Base Kodiak Fire Department and Women’s Bay Volunteer Fire Department worked Sunday to combat a wildfire near Kalsin Creek and Pasagshak Road, about 30 miles east of the city of Kodiak.
According to Ray Moore, Base Kodiak assistant fire chief, the wildfire started Saturday night and continued spreading on Sunday morning.
By Sunday evening, Moore said, the fire had grown to 50 acres in size. As of Monday evening, it had grown to just over 60 acres and was reported to be 80% contained. Moore said both fire departments had vehicles and crews on the scene, and aerial support had to be called in to help suppress the flames.
“It provided significant help in preventing the spread of the fire front,” Moore said of the aerial support.
He said the aerial support provided two water drops as well as some intel from the air, while fire crews worked to try and prevent the blaze from spreading to a nearby ranch.
“We attempted to actively control the fire front and flank it to prevent the spread and protect the ranch due north of the fire,” Moore said.
No structures were damaged.
Moore said the joint fire crews faced some challenges, including terrain and weather.
“The weather wasn’t helpful initially because it was starting to get warmer and dryer as the day got on,” he said. “We were trying to get knocked down sooner, before higher winds or warmer weather occurred.”
Moore added that the terrain on the east side of the fire along Pagashak Road proved difficult for the crews to traverse.
“There were some obstacles they had to battle,” he said.
Some natural barriers were available to help slow it down, he added, including the creek which slowed its spread.
“There was a marshy area on the southwest side of the fire, where the fire got into a real soft, wet area,” Moore said. “That helped as well.”
Moore said responsibility for the fire was handed over to a four-person crew from the Alaska Division of Forestry’s Kenai/Kodiak area office late Sunday.
The crew was still on the scene as of Monday, according to Howie Kent, fire management officer for the Kenai/Kodiak area.
“The crew got there Sunday afternoon and the fire had been knocked down,” Kent said Monday. “It looks pretty good but we will be out there all day.”
“We were coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard and they provided some folks out there yesterday (Sunday),” Kent said. “When our guys got there, we did a transition. We really appreciate what they and the volunteer fire department did.”
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, Kent said. Moore had initially reported it as human-caused but was unsure of the exact source.
Kent expressed optimism that it would be fully controlled by Tuesday. Kent added that the fire was located mostly on land belonging to the Leisnoi Native Corporation.
“We’ll mop the fire up until a point to be good and out,” Kent said. “The fire has laid down and it’s not an imminent threat to anything of value. It looks like it’s fairly low-intensity fire.”
Kent and Moore both stressed the need for fire prevention and caution as the summer season picks up and more people seek outdoor recreation.
“It is critical right now as we get started into summer and paying attention to weather conditions,” Moore said. “It’s essential to pay attention to the burn ban in certain areas where it’s possible for extremely high fire damage, make sure the importance of paying attention to state guidelines and to use your best common sense in high winds and dry conditions.”
Moore added that “sometimes it’s just not a good idea to have open fires.”
Kent noted residents looking to do a burn pile or burn barrel need to adhere to state and local guidelines and obtain a burn permit. Burn permits are required from April 1 to Aug. 31, and can be obtained at local fire departments.
Like Moore, he advised people who go camping to pay attention to weather conditions as the summer goes on.
“It has been an interesting season, some periods of wet and periods of dry and windy,” Moore said. “Be careful when recreating or burning their debris pile. Stay with your fire until it’s out, cold to the touch, and have plenty of resources, including a bucket, to get water and hand tools.”
He also stressed being careful with fireworks as the Fourth of July holiday approaches.
“We’ve had quite a few fires in Kodiak in past years started by fireworks,” Kent said. “If you light them, do it in an area that is clear, and have plenty of resources on hand to stop a fire in case one starts.”