Finally--someone has put up a webcam in Homer.
The camera looks toward the Homer Spit from East Hill Road. A portion of the approach end of Runway 21 is visible beyond the fire line of spruce trees.
Although the morning air smells of smoke, visibility is virtually unrestricted. A small patch of smoke has settled into the Fritz Creek valley toward the head of the bay, but aside from that and a few faint wisps of smoke over the top of the bluff, the early morning airport scene appears normal.
The smoke has become a darker shade of gray and the wisps are now becoming more vigorous in appearance, more like little cumulus clouds. The morning off-shore breeze must have stirred the fire back to life and is moving the smoke--but I hope not the fire--west along the ridge toward Bluff Point.
The change in appearance of the fire over last hour has been ominous. The fire officials and the weather service keep making optimistic sounds about rain showers and cooler temperatures but what cloud-cover we had yesterday and thus far today is thin cirrus-type that promises little moisture. At six this morning, the temperature at the airport was 48 degrees and probably about 44 at the thousand-foot level. The morning winds are fairly light but the forecast indicates a sea-breeze developing by noon. That breeze typically runs from twelve to fifteen knots. The advantage is that it is normally out of the southwest, so would drive the fire north and east--away from the settled areas.
It's still wait-and-see here.
52 degrees and the earlier overcast has broken up into thin cirrus--not much chance of rain. The winds at the field remain light but judging from the smoke plumes, the fire has stirred back to life with all the vitality it has shown for the past two days. It is difficult to tell--because of the screening effect of the smoke--but there appear to be two (or more) "hot spots" sending up the now-familiar columns of smoke.
Watching from the vantage point at the airport, I can see the smoke boiling up, rising pale gray until it hits what meteorogists (and weather geeks) call the "lifted condensation level" (which looks to be about five- or six-thousand feet this morning) where it blossoms into cumulus clouds of brilliant white, trailing smoke and ash off downwind.
I plan to drive home this afternoon by way of Skyline and Diamond Ridge to see if I can get a definitive view of what is going on to the north.
By RACHEL D'ORO
The Associated Press
Monday, May 2, 2005; 6:12 AM
ANCHORAGE, Alaska -- Alaska's fire season has already heated up, with crews scrambling to battle numerous blazes, including a fire from last year's record season that smoldered all winter.
Fire managers said Sunday the outbreaks in Homer, Interior Alaska and Hoonah hit even before some crews have completed their annual training and safety refresher courses held at the beginning of each season.
"Mother Nature is throwing us a curve this year," said John See, a spokesman for the state Division of Forestry. "We're getting more challenging fires like what we usually would be seeing in a few weeks."
About 80 firefighters were tackling a 3,270-acre wildfire in Homer on the Kenai Peninsula, and fire managers requested more help. The fire was reported Friday afternoon and quickly doubled in size. But half of the crews didn't arrive until a full day later.
"This is the time of year a lot of crews are finishing up their training and safety refreshers, so it's hard to put together all the resources," Kris Eriksen, a forestry division spokeswoman. "It takes longer than it would if we were completely ready."
Available crews concentrated on the southern end about two miles from a residential subdivision, even though the western perimeter was more active. That area is of less concern because there's no immediate populated area, Eriksen said.
In Interior Alaska, a dozen firefighters worked Sunday on putting out a three-acre flare-up from a wildfire that contributed to the record 6.7 million acres burned in the state last year.
"We don't see any other new source for the ignition," said Marsha Henderson, a state forestry division spokeswoman. "Last fall, some fires were still burning when it started to snow."
As of Sunday, only one of two air tankers chartered from Canada had arrived. The other won't be delivered until May 10, Henderson said. The tanker was immediately in demand, with three new large Interior fires reported Sunday.
The plane, which drops flame retardant, was heading to Homer when it was diverted to a 40-acre fire in Nenana. Before arriving there, the plane was diverted to a 150-acre fire near Delta Junction, then to a 15-acre blaze threatening homes, See said.
"In terms of the number of fires, we're kind of on track, but typically this early we see very small fires, usually ones that escape from debris burns," See said.