A quick response from firefighters on Sunday afternoon saved two East End Road houses from being destroyed by a swift, wind driven wildfire. Kachemak Emergency Services, Alaska Division of Forestry, Homer Volunteer Fire Department and Anchor Point Emergency Services all went to the fire in the woods behind two homes between Yukon Avenue and Greer Road on the north side of East End Road near about Mile 9.
“Two homes that were definitely threatened were saved and protected,” said KES Fire Chief Bob Cicciarella at the scene of the fire. “No damage.”
KES had just finished mopping up about a 2-acre fire around 6 p.m. Sunday, May 27, when they got the call of a fire near Mile 9 East End Road. KES went with tankers and engines while other departments scrambled to the fire with more equipment. A Division of Forestry helicopter with sling bucket began dumping water on the fire. A Division of Forestry airplane also dumped several loads of retardant.
The fire began in a shed near one home. Cicciarella said the resident wasn’t home and didn’t see the start of the fire. The fire destroyed several sheds and an outhouse, with flames coming within 50 to 100 feet of the homes. A home at 55200 East End Road had a green, mowed lawn on the west side of the house toward where the fire started. The fire stopped at the edge of the lawn — a good example of how defensible space of cleared brush and mowed lawns can keep wildfires from damaging homes.
Cicciarella said East End Road fire spread to about 3 acres. Winds from the south pushed the fire toward willows, grass and brush in the rural subdivisions east of Greer Road.
“It was a good catch,” he said. “It was definitely headed that way. The wind was helping it. The crews did a great job getting on it for sure.”
A lack of deep snow this winter didn’t stomp down high grass, and the grass in the area is high and more prone to catching fire. Grass and shrubs also haven’t begun to green up, making meadows particularly vulnerable to fire. Cicciarella said KES has “been running like crazy,” with almost half its calls fire responses, higher than usual.
KES investigators haven’t determined the cause of the East End Road fire, but Cicciarella said the Basargin Road fire is suspicious.
Reach Michael Armstrong at firstname.lastname@example.org.