Kenai Peninsula Borough to seek disaster declaration

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker met with Kenai Mayor Pat Porter and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre on Wednesday to discuss state resource use, a potential statewide burning ban and a disaster declaration for the Kenai Peninsula.

The more than 2,500-acre Card Street wildfire, alongside several smaller burns on the Kenai Peninsula, have stretched local firefighting resources thin, while state resources are being devoted to a large fire in Willow and others in the state.

“What it comes down to is, are the resources stressed?” Navarre said. “We had a call actually from the Willow fire, wanting us to go up there and we were going to send equipment up there and we had our own fire start, so we couldn’t allow that.”

The borough already has cooperative agreements with the state’s Division of Forestry, but as the fire grows, more equipment and funding is needed.

“If we are called out on a fire (like the Card Street wildfire), then we get reimbursed for the cost of our firefighters and for the cost of our equipment. If it gets a federal disaster declaration, obviously they’re bringing in resources from all over the country and also some funding. It’s really a matter of who pays what,” Navarre said.

While Walker said he did not have time to do any site visits to the Kenai Peninsula fires, he does intend to fly over the affected areas.

He said he flew over the fire in Willow — a blaze that has consumed more than 7,500 acres since Sunday — and saw the destruction before issuing a disaster declaration in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

“We’re probably going to impose some things, statewide on burn bans and those kinds of things and fireworks,” Walker said. “I just wanted to make sure we had an opportunity to meet with the local mayors … and let them know what we’re doing.”

If a burn ban were to be imposed it would be coming from the state’s Division of Forestry, said Walker’s deputy press secretary Katie Marquette.

Navarre said borough administration is drafting the declaration and were likely to submit it by Wednesday.

Rashah McChesney is the city editor for the Peninsula Clarion. She can be reached at rashah.mcchesney@peninsulaclarion.com or follow her on Twitter @litmuslens.

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