The Alaska Division of Forestry deployed its first air retardant tanker of the season on Sunday to help combat a small wildfire threatening cabins in the Caribou Hills near Ninilchik on the Kenai Peninsula.
State Forestry wildland firefighters and firefighters from Ninilchik Emergency Services were called to a report of a grass fire near Mile 17 of Oil Well Road at approximately 2 p.m. Once on scene, the fire was sized up as an approximately one-half acre fire burning in brush and grass. Winds from the northwest were pushing the fire toward four structures to the south.
An air attack plane and an air tanker based in Palmer were ordered as firefighters worked to contain the growing blaze, which was dubbed the Murray Fire. The air tanker split one 2,000-gallon retardant load into two separate drops to help box in the fire on two sides while a pair of ATV trails were used as containment lines on the other two sides.
A helicopter from Kenai/Kodiak Area Forestry station in Soldotna was used to drop water on the fire as firefighters on the ground gained control of the fire. The fire was declared contained at 4:15 p.m. at an estimated 2.4 acres.
A 10-person squad from the Yukon Fire Crew based in Soldotna was ordered to assist State Forestry firefighters with mop up of the fire and camped at the fire overnight.
The fire was called controlled and placed in monitor status at 9:30 a.m. Monday after Yukon Fire Crew members completed two grids of the fire to search for hot spots.
The cause of the fire was determined to be juveniles playing with fireworks.
The air retardant tanker used on Sunday is one of two Convair 580 air tankers contracted by the State Division of Forestry from Conair Group, Inc. of Abbottsford, British Columbia. The tanker, based in Palmer, began its 90-day contract on May 3 and this was the first retardant drop of the season. The second air tanker was scheduled to arrive in Fairbanks today and be ready for action on Tuesday, May 12.