June 27, 2015
“There’s been rain! Does that mean the fires are over and I can use my charcoal grill this weekend?”
This is a common question received by the Alaska Interagency Fire Information Center since rain moved into the area beginning yesterday. The rains this weekend are providing a brief slow-down in fire activity. Any diminished fire activity due to rain will be short-lived. Fuel conditions across the state are still very dry overall. Any moisture gained during these weekend rains will be become a minimal factor as vegetation dries out very quickly when the rain stops. That means that existing fires will come back to life, and the possibility of new fire starts and growth on existing fires may pose serious threats once again.
Fire managers are very grateful for the rain because it has allowed them extra time to make long-term plans and move firefighters, aircraft, and supplies to different areas around the state. However, the small, intermittent amounts of rain that have fallen do not mean the fires and fire season are over. Extended-duration precipitation in late summer or fall will be what it takes to end fire season.
Precipitation amounts have varied across the state. Some areas have received true, wetting rain up to an inch. However, other locations nearby these rain-soaked areas have received little to none. The driest portions of the state are generally to the north and west of a line from Eagle to Tanana to Aniak; in addition there are pockets of dry land throughout the interior.
In areas that have not received larger amounts of rain, fires will burn actively today. There will be subdued fire behavior for much of the central Interior and South Central, but fire activity is expected to continue in portions of the Copper River Basin and south of Tok.
So, what can you do? Do not see this rainy weekend as an opportunity to utilize grills and start fires that could smolder and flare up again when the sun comes out. There is a burn closure in effect on all state, private and municipal lands throughout Alaska, with the exception of the North Slope. The state closure pertains to all open burning, including campfires, burn barrels, debris burning and charcoal grills, even in established fire rings or grills. Gas grills and backpacking or camps stoves that use fuel or compressed canisters that can be regulated and shut off are still permitted for use. For more information, visit http://dnr.alaska.gov/commis/pic/publicnote.cfm.
Regulations on open fires on federal lands throughout the state vary by specific location. For a list of some of these closures and suspensions, please visit https://akfireinfo.com/2015/06/24/updated-alaska-burn-restrictions-and-closures/. When in doubt, contact the agency in charge of the land you want to visit for current, specific information.
It is everyone’s responsibility to remain extremely aware and fire safe.