News from the Alaska State Legislature, the Office of Senator Micciche
For Immediate Release: October 22, 2019

Sen. Micciche Calls Meeting with Officials over Wildfire Management

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SOLDOTNA – Senator Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, sent a letter Thursday requesting a meeting with federal officials to investigate why efforts to fully extinguish the Swan Lake Fire were significantly scaled back in June.

“It’s time we had answers,” said Sen. Micciche. “Fire management policies on federal lands near Alaskan communities must adequately protect human life and property. If that’s not the case, then federal policies need to change.”

The lightening-caused fire began on June 5th and was nearly under control at around 38,000 acres in July when efforts to fully extinguish or contain the fire were reduced. In mid-August, a high-wind event dramatically increased the size and risk of the fire overnight.

“We were led to believe federal policies allow fires to burn when there is no immediate threat to life and property to improve moose browse and overall forest health,” said Sen. Micciche. “While these policies make sense when fires are in remote areas, not all wilderness is created equal. In this year of record low relative humidity and record high temperatures that followed a winter of low snow fall and a dry spring, the policy of ‘Letting It Burn’ seemed ill-advised.”  

The fire was one of the largest in recent history on the Kenai Peninsula, threatening several communities – particularly Sterling and Cooper Landing – affecting air quality, and depressing local economies.

“I am extremely grateful for the swift actions of the incident commanders and firefighters who worked long, hard hours to bring the fire under control and essentially save two communities from the imminent threat of the fire,” Sen. Micciche added. “We are so proud of their actions to prevent destruction of our homes and businesses and the recreational infrastructure in the area.”

Sen. Micciche extended invitations to U.S. Senators Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan; Congressman Don Young; Representatives Ben Carpenter, Gary Knopp and Sarah Vance; Department of Natural Resources Commissioner Corri Feige; and Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Charlie Pierce, in addition to officials from the U.S. Forestry Service, Fish and Wildlife; Chugach and Kenai National Wildlife Refuges; State Forestry; Department of Public Safety; and the Department of Transportation.

Sen. Micciche’s office is currently arranging a venue and date for the meeting, to be held sometime between November 4-11.

For more information, contact Senate Majority Communications Director Daniel McDonald at (907) 465-4066.

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