Stevens to fly over wildfire

U.S. senator to take a firsthand look at Caribou Hills blaze

Posted: Tuesday, July 03, 2007

ANCHORAGE - Two wildfires in Alaska are winding down, including one on the Kenai Peninsula that destroyed dozens of recreational cabins and homes.

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Sen. Ted Stevens, R-Alaska, was scheduled to fly over the Caribou Hills fire on Monday to get a firsthand look at the destruction caused by the fire that began June 19 with a spark on to dry grass as a shovel was being sharpened. The fire was ignited as a man was preparing the land to build a cabin for his fiancee.

People in Clam Gulch and Kasilof are still seeing smoke from the Caribou blaze near Ninilchik, which at last count had grown to about 55,438 acres. The blaze is about 76 percent contained, said Kris Eriksen, of the state Division of Forestry.

In the meantime, fire crews contained the Susitna River Fire near Trapper Lake.

The northeast corner of the Caribou fire has crept into the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, Eriksen said. Crews are monitoring that part of the blaze but not actively fighting it, she said.

Teams bulldozed the fire's edge until reaching the wildlife area, then used chain saws and shovels to cut fire lines using lower-impact tactics, Eriksen said.

"We're trying not to scar the wilderness," she said.

Stevens is expected to fly over the site with Soldotna forestry officials, Eriksen said.

Wet weather over the weekend helped dampen the 8,500-acre Susitna River Fire, which started from lightning June 20.

Enough rain fell that crews were able to leave Sunday, before Monday's scheduled departure, said Pam Sichting, fire information officer. Some crews will continue to patrol for hot spots in coming days to make sure the Susitna River fire stays under control, Sichting said.

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