The Alaska Division of Forestry got its first wildfire call of the season on Monday in the Mat-Su Valley when a fire in an unattended burn barrel with an inadequate fire break escaped into the wildland. The fire, at a home on Thunder Cloud Drive off Pittman Road, caught a nearby shed on fire, causing substantial damage and destroying all the homeowner’s tools. Fortunately, firefighters from the Central Mat-Su Fire Department and Meadow Lakes Fire Department responded in time to prevent the fire from spreading to the house and the fire was kept at just 0.1 acres.
The homeowner told Mat-Su Area Forestry prevention technician Ethan Eley that he had gone inside with the fire burning in the burn barrel in his front yard when he heard a loud “Swoosh” as the wind picked up and the fire escaped into dry ground fuels surrounding the barrel leading to the shed. The homeowner then called 911 to report the fire.
The homeowner was issued a written warning for having an inadequate fire break and uncontrolled spread of a fire. He was also given a general burn permit and advised of safe and legal burning practices.
The public needs to be aware that starting on April 1 a general burn permit will be required for the use of all burn barrels. This a change from previous years due in large part to situations like yesterday’s fire. Escaped burn barrel fires are one of the leading causes of structure and wildland fires in Alaska.
Yesterday’s incident illustrates how dry conditions are in the Mat-Su Valley and other parts of Southcentral Alaska due to the lack of snow and why it’s extremely important to burn safely even though burn permits are not required until April 1.
Remember, never leave a fire unattended, clear fire breaks down to mineral soil around any fire and have tools and water on hand in case the fire does escape.