Quick response stops half-acre wildfire off East End Road

With the Kenai Peninsula under very high to extreme fire danger, a prompt response by Alaska Division of Forestry, Homer Volunteer Fire Department and Kachemak Emergency Services firefighters stopped a grass fire in its tracks on Alan Street off East End Road about 2 p.m. Sunday afternoon. 

Between the time when firefighters arrived and they got it contained the fire had doubled in size and was running upslope, said Andy Alexandrou, a Division of Forestry public information officer in Soldotna.

Forestry also sent a Bell 212 helitack, or helicopter-attack, crew with firefighters — standard operating procedure under very-high fire danger conditions so that if needed extra firefighters are on hand, Alexandrou said.

“It was a splendid response, I thought,” said Nick Varney, who lives in the neighborhood near Mile 5 East End Road below Wasabi’s Restaurant. “Kudos to the troops.”

Varney said he and his wife, Jane, had seen smoke as they were driving home from the Spit. As they got closer to home, they realized it was in their neighborhood.

“When I looked down, all I could see was fire and smoke coming up,” Varney said of the scene when he got to Alan Street.

Will Hutt, a lieutenant with the Homer Police Department who lives in the area, was off duty when he saw the fire burning near a log cabin on Alan Street. After calling in the fire to the Homer Police dispatcher, Hutt drove down and checked on the cabin to make sure no one was home. He found all the doors locked. When flames started spreading toward a shed and fuel tank, Hutt said he quickly left.

Hutt said he also was impressed by the response, particularly how fast the helicopter arrived from Soldotna.

“The firefighters knocked it down in a hurry. They contained it right away,” Hutt said. “They were Johnny-on-the-spot — literally.”

Two Division of Forestry brush trucks and crews, and tankers and crews from HVFD and KES quickly hosed down the fire. Alexandrou said when firefighters arrived flames shot up 4- to 6-feet high around about 80 percent of the fire perimeter. Heading uphill, the fire threatened homes on Gale Avenue as well as neighborhoods to the north. The fire burned about a half acre.

The official fire report classified the cause as “human,” but Alexandrou said the exact cause remains under investigation. 

High temperatures, winds and low humidity have caused fire conditions on the Kenai Peninsula to range from very high to extreme. A weather collection site near Cooper Landing recorded a high temperature of 92 on Sunday. Temperatures on June 16 in Homer were in the 60s, with south-southwest winds about 10 mph. 

A burning suspension is in effect, meaning open burning by permit is suspended until further notice. Small warming or cooking fires are allowed where safe, that is, on bare ground and away from dry grass and driftwood. Campfires should be thoroughly extinguished before leaving.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at michael.