Memorial Day Weekend marks the unofficial start of summer in Alaska and with it comes increased wildfire activity.
While Alaska has already had 150 wildfires reported this year, all the fires thus far have been small blazes that have been quickly brought under control.
The first holiday weekend of the summer, however, traditionally leads to a number of new wildfires started by escaped campfires, all-terrain vehicles, debris burning, fireworks, target shooting and other recreational activities people are partaking in over the weekend.
Nearly all the fires reported this season have been human caused and were therefore preventable. Here are a few tips from the Alaska Division of Forestry and the BLM Alaska Fire Service to keep in mind this weekend:
- Never leave a fire of any kind unattended.
- Keep campfires small and away from grasses and other vegetation that can catch fire.
- Make sure campfires are completely extinguished before leaving them by drowning with water and stirring until they are cold to the touch.
- Have tools and water on site to prevent fires from escaping.
- Dispose of barbecue ashes or coals in a fireproof container; do not dump them in the woods.
- Call 911 immediately if there is a wildland fire emergency.
Despite cooler, wetter conditions across much of the state during the past week, forecasters are calling for warmer temperatures and drier conditions heading into the holiday weekend. All it takes is a few days of warm, dry weather to elevate the fire danger.
State wildfire managers urge Alaskans to use extreme caution with any kind of activity that could spark a wildfire. In areas where open burning is allowed, you must have a current burn permit and call your local forestry office or go online to see if burning is allowed in the area.
It is important to remember that anyone who starts a wildfire can be held responsible for firefighting costs incurred by the state or federal governments.
For burn permit information, call your local Division of Forestry office or visit the DOF website at http://forestry.alaska.gov/burn/. For statewide fire information, visit the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center website at http://fire.ak.blm.gov and http://akfireinfo.com.