Firefighters extinguish blaze caused by campfire left burning

Posted: Wednesday, May 07, 2003

U.S. Forest Service firefighters Tuesday subdued a Lena Point blaze that started when a campfire was left burning, said USFS fire spokesman David Carr.

The federal firefighters, supported by a city tanker truck, dug into the ground Tuesday and cut into smoldering snags in an attempt to keep the fire from reigniting.

"I consider it out unless something pops up, and I doubt it will," Carr said. "There's always a chance that there's a little thing that we missed, and that it will pop up and we'll have to send some people out."

Carr said Monday night's high humidity helped control the fire.

"That made a difference and stopped it," he said. "It was mostly creeping on the ground. The wind pushed it around (Monday), but not too badly."

Susan Marthaller, acting Juneau District ranger for the Forest Service, said such fires often burn down into the ground.

The fire was first reported Sunday night near the Lena Point rock quarry. Carr estimated the size of the fire to be 3 acres. Previous estimates ranged from 6 to 10 acres.

"It's on a slope, so acreage is deceiving," Carr said

"It was the result of a campfire left burning," Marthaller said. "The concern is the structures that are nearby. There is a house within about a half mile of there."

Another fire burned about 3 acres on the west side of Douglas Island Sunday. It was largely extinguished Monday. It's difficult to extinguish such fires, Marthaller said.

"Even with a lot of rain it will continue to burn," she said.

The Forest Service and local firefighters asked residents and visitors to be extremely careful with campfires and cigarettes due to the dry weather.

Though rain is forecast for this weekend, it is unlikely Juneau will get a huge amount in the coming weeks, said National Weather Service meteorologist Paul Shannon.

"May is one of our driest months normally," he said.

Juneau's current dry streak started April 23, and has been broken up by only a couple instances of light rain, Shannon said. Though the dry weather is notable, he said it is far from reaching the record, which is four weeks without rain.

According to the weather service, April 2003 was the third-driest April in Juneau's history, with 0.86 inches of rain - more than 2 inches below normal.

As for temperature, April broke some records: the 12th, 13th and 14th had record-breaking temperatures in the high 50s, the 24th, 25th and 26th had record highs in the mid-70s. The mercury reached 74 on April 26, the highest temperature recorded in April in Juneau.

Temperatures for May have swung toward the other extreme, Shannon said. The night-time lows of 26 degrees on May 4 and 5 were record lows for those dates.

"This happens with clear and dry conditions," Shannon said. "You get a bigger temperature range."

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