Alaska News

Kenai Peninsula fire destroys structures; hundreds of residents urged to evacuate

A grass fire reported Monday afternoon on the Kenai Peninsula grew rapidly through the afternoon, burning six structures and prompting a voluntary evacuation alert covering hundreds of homes in the Sterling area, emergency officials said.

First reported at 1:38 p.m., the blaze – named the Card Street fire -- had burned 75 acres by 3:30 p.m., said Dan Nelson, program coordinator for the Office of Emergency Management.

An initial voluntary evacuation of Feuding Lane and Kenai Keys Road was expanded by evening to include the areas of Salmon Run Drive to the end of Fisherman's Road and Dow Island, wrote Brenda Ahlberg, public information officer with the Kenai Peninsula Borough.

By 6 p.m., the fire had jumped Kenai Keys Road south of the Sterling Highway, Mowry said.

Two hundred structures were threatened by the fire at midday, and by evening, Mowry said the evacuation call was "going to far exceed that number."

Responding to the fire were Central Emergency Services and the Alaska Division of Forestry. Five aircraft were assigned to the fire Monday. "We've got more resources ordered -- another plane, another helicopter," Mowry said.

"We've got a lot of firefighters on the ground responding," said Sam Harrel, information officer with Alaska Fire Service, at midday Monday.

The Nikiski and Kenai fire departments were en route to help fight the blaze on Monday afternoon, Thompson said.

A voluntary evacuation was completed for Feuding Lane and Kenai Keys Road by late afternoon. A "reverse 911" call had been sent out urging residents in the area to evacuate, Harrel said.

An information hot line was set up with the Office of Emergency Management at 907-714-2495. The Sterling Community Center was being used as a temporary shelter.

Jesi Beauchamp, a board member for the Soldotna Equestrian Association, said the organization would open the Soldotna rodeo grounds to all livestock needing to be evacuated.

Beauchamp wrote on Facebook: "Board members have trailers hooked on and ready to roll, as well as space at their houses for critters. We also have several points of contact for other residents with trailers and space at their houses. Laurie has room for dogs as well! 398-3656 (Laurie), 690-3501 (myself), or 252-5247 (Connie)."

Another, unrelated fire was also reported Monday near Anchor Point on the southern Kenai Peninsula, Harrel said. It had burned one-tenth of an acre Monday afternoon. "It looks like they're getting a handle on that one," Harrel said.

Sean Ruddy took a video of the fire at roughly 4 p.m. Monday, overlooking Skilak Lake: