Kenai fire continues to grow

Blaze becomes an increasing threat

Posted: Friday, June 22, 2007

ANCHORAGE - A fire burning on the Kenai Peninsula about 30 miles north of Homer more than doubled in size overnight and is estimated at about 6,000 acres, Division of Forestry officials said Thursday.

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The blaze - spewing out a 40,000-foot column of smoke - has spread into an area on its northeast flank where it is threatening cabins, said Kris Eriksen, a Division of Forestry spokeswoman.

She said the area is riddled with highly flammable beetle-killed trees and black spruce.

"It's like kerosene on a stick," she said.

The other area of concern Thursday was the fire's northwest corner, Eriksen said, which is threatening to move into the Deep Creek drainage, where it could spread toward Ninilchik, she said.

One cabin has been destroyed and a second may have been lost late Wednesday, Eriksen said. Fire crews are trying to get to the area to assess the property, she said. The lost structure was north of Deep Creek and belonged to Rob Coreson and Rob Link.

Two people were rescued by helicopter Tuesday evening, when the fire began. There have been no reported injuries.

A Homer Electric Association power transmission line was in the fire's path and is assumed to have been destroyed despite efforts to save it, Eriksen said. Power was diverted and the line between Bradley and Soldotna was cut off before the fire reached it. Utility officials said customer service was not disrupted.

The fire began when sparks from a grinder being used to sharpen a shovel fell into dry grass, Eriksen said.

More than 120 firefighters are battling the fire in the popular Caribou Hills recreational area with no end in sight, Eriksen said.

"It's amazing the amount of energy this thing is putting off," she said. "It has a lot of fuel."

Smoke and ash were reported in Homer. Eriksen said the town is in no immediate danger.

Warm temperatures and low humidity contributed to the fire's rapid progression. The National Weather Service predicted partly cloudy skies and isolated thunderstorms for Thursday, with highs in the mid 70s.

A resident Tuesday reported the fire burning about a mile southeast of her home when it was less than 100 acres.

It tripled in size in 90 minutes and within five hours the fire had reached 800 to 1,000 acres, said Dale Anderegg, a helicopter attack foreman directing operations.

Crews have been dropping loads of retardant and using a helicopter to drop water from a lake on the fire. Bulldozers also are helping build fire breaks.

State fire bosses called up crews from as far away as Anchorage and Fairbanks to fight the fire.

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