Navarre: Different agencies show ‘amazing’ coordination in fighting Funny River fire

On a visit last week to Homer, Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre and Human Resources Director Stormy Brown sat down for a short interview with the Homer News at the borough annex. Navarre and Brown were in town for informal discussions with southern Kenai Peninsula residents. Brown also met with borough employees to discuss any job issues they might have.

With the Funny River Fire the big news the past two weeks, and the fire finally getting under control, the borough’s role in responding was fresh on their minds.

“It’s been amazing to watch how that incident command system works,” Navarre said of the joint federal, state and local coordination. “It’s amazing to watch how well planned they are.”

The borough offered resources to fight the fire, including use of Skyview High School as the incident command center as well as firefighters and equipment from local service areas, including Kachemak Emergency Services. Nikiksi area firefighters also went across Cook Inlet to fight the Tyonek fire.

“It’s amazing. Probably two-thirds of the departments of the borough wound up involved in it in some way,” Brown said.

Under rate agreements set up before, the borough will be reimbursed for use of equipment, buildings and workers. Some borough resources didn’t have agreements set up, but Navarre said that will be under discussion and negotiation.

The firefighters were impressed with local support for their work. Brown said signs all over Kenai, Funny River and Soldotna expressed that.

“The firefighters in town have said how amazed they were,” she said.

For borough projects, Navarre said he was pleased to see Gov. Sean Parnell did not veto any projects in the state capital budget. That includes $380,000 to repair the troubled Tall Tree Road bridge near Anchor Point.

“It will still be a one-lane bridge,” Navarre said. The approach to it will be borough.” The grant says that once upgraded the borough will propose that it be added to the road service area.

“It was sort of in a gap. It was nobody’s responsibility,” he said.

Navarre met with Kachemak Emergency Services Fire Chief Bob Cicciarella and got an update on the Diamond Ridge Fire Station, now under construction.

“They’re going pretty quick on it,” he said. “It might be as early as August when they’re in the facility.”

Navarre also met with South Peninsula Hospital officials and got an update on its strategic plan. One concern is the bluff behind the hospital and the potential that if it’s developed it could impact slope stability. The hospital also is looking at long-term leases or purchase of nearby facilities, like Homer Medical Clinic. 

Navarre said that while there have been discussions of a lower peninsula recreation service area, “nothing’s been advanced a great deal,” he said. The city of Soldotna has similar concerns as the city of Homer with relatively small boundaries and a surrounding population outside the tax area that uses city services.

At the Homer Solid Waste Facility, formerly a landfill, a leachate evaporator has been completed, Navarre said. The evaporator catches runoff from buried solid waste. With the landfill closed, the borough still has to manage the landfill as waste decomposes. The landfill hasn’t yet generated enough methane to recover, but that’s something the borough is looking at in the future as a way to generate power.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at