Red flag warning lifted for peninsula

Updated 10:40 a.m. June 18 to add that campfires are now prohibited.

Lessening winds and higher humidity caused the National Weather Service to lift a red flag warning for the Kenai Peninsula, but the fire danger remained at extreme on the upper peninsula and very high on the lower peninsula.

A red flag warning means that critical fire weather conditions are imminent. Temperatures had climbed as high as 82 degrees on Monday in Homer and smoke from the Sockeye Fire in Willow drifted down Cook Inlet, making the sun appear bright orange as it set behind the haze. On Wednesday afternoon, the State Forester banned all open burning, including campfires and barbecue grills.

Southern peninsula firefighters knocked back several small fires this week, including an Old Sterling Highway fire caused by a failed insulator on a Homer Electric Association power pole. Firefighters on Wednesday morning investigated a report of a fire near Nanwalek, said Andy Alexandrou, a Alaska Division of Forestry public information officer in Soldotna.

On the central peninsula, wildland firefighters continued to try to contain the 2,000-acre Card Street fire in the Kenai Keys subdivision near Sterling (see pages 6, 21 and 22). Firefighters also responded to two smaller fires near Cooper Landing.

A burn suspension remains in effect for much of Southcentral Alaska, including the peninsula. That includes burn barrels. 

Campfires had been allowed, but due to continued dry conditions, at about 4:30 p.m. June 17, the Alaska State Forester extended the burn ban to include campfires, warming fires and charcoal and wood fires, even in barbecue grills. 

Gas grills, backpacking or camp stoves using fuel or compressed canisters which can be regulated and shut off are still permitted for use.

Though many wildfires had been caused by humans, a rash of 1,500 lightning strikes on Tuesday hit the state. Around Kachemak Bay, Alexandrou said strikes hit the south side of the bay and near Nanwalek.

On Monday at about 2:40 p.m. a failed insulator on a power pole on the south end of the Old Sterling Highway caused a small fire at the bottom of the pole. HEA crews contained the fire until State Forestry and Anchor Point Fire and Emergency Services firefighters responded and put it out, said HEA spokesperson Joe Gallagher. The fire did not spread beyond the area of the pole.

That fire also caused a one-hour power outage for about 640 HEA members in the Diamond Ridge and Old Sterling Highway area.

On Tuesday, Anchor Point and State Forestry firefighters went to another small fire in a sawdust pile on Resch Avenue near Mile 148 Sterling Highway. Firefighters hit the 120-foot-by-30-foot fire with about 3,000 gallons of water.

Homer’s heat wave lessened on Wednesday. Winds were 5 mph east to southwest with a high of about 75 and a low around 52. The weekend forecast calls for sunny on Friday and Saturday, and cooling with cloud skies on Sunday, with a high near 60.

Michael Armstrong can be reached at