June 17, 2016 – With the hottest temperatures of the summer heading into Solstice Weekend, wildfire officials in Alaska are urging extreme caution with any kind of activity that could spark a wildfire.
Hot, dry weather for the last week has resulted in very high to extreme fire danger around much of the state, particularly in Southcentral and Interior Alaska.
Solstice Weekend is the longest weekend of the year in Alaska and residents like to get out and take advantage of the long daylight hours that come with it. With more people out camping, hiking, boating, fishing and enjoying the outdoors, the likelihood of wildland fires also increases.
The Alaska Division of Forestry currently has burn suspensions in effect for Fairbanks, Delta, Tok and Copper River Basin areas that prohibit open debris burning and the use of burn barrels. The National Weather Service has also issued Red Flag Warnings for those areas that are in effect through 10 p.m. Friday. While there are no fire restrictions currently in place for the Mat-Su Valley and Kenai Peninsula those areas are also very dry and fire danger is high. Burn permits are not required for small campfires (less than 3 feet in diameter) and barbecue grills, but vigilance is; never leave a fire of any kind unattended, even for a brief period of time.
Alaska’s wildfire managers urge the public to use caution this Solstice Weekend with any activity that could ignite a wildland fire, whether it’s sitting around a campfire, riding an ATV, target shooting or grilling hamburgers and hot dogs.
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.
If you do see a wildfire, call 911 immediately to report it.
Here is a list of potential wildfire ignition sources and tips on how to prevent wildfires:
ATVS/off-road vehicles – Watch for vegetation on or touching hot parts of the engine or exhaust that can cause a fire. Be vigilant if riding in a grassy area.
Barbecue grills – Don’t use on a grass surface and dispose of ashes or coals in a safe place (i.e. fireproof container) when done cooking.
Burn barrels –A Division of Forestry burn permit is required for the use of any burn barrel in Division of Forestry protection areas. You must go online (http://forestry.alaska.gov/burn) or call your local forestry office each day before you plan to burn to see if burning is allowed on that day. Only organic materials may be burned in a burn barrel, i.e. paper, untreated wood and brush/lawn debris. It is illegal to burn items such as plastic, garbage, rubber, Styrofoam, insulation, painted or treated wood, etc. Be certain items are completely burned and do not let the fire smolder. Do not leave an active burn barrel unattended.
Campfires – Keep fires small (under 3 feet in diameter) and in a spot where the fire cannot spread. Select a spot on gravel, sand or bare soil well away from trees, moss, brush and dry grass. Never leave a campfire unattended. Make sure fires are completely out by drowning them with water and stirring them with a stick until they are cold to the touch.
Chainsaws – Setting down a hot chainsaw on dry grass can ignite a wildfire. Also, sawdust or grass coming in contact with the muffler while cutting can start a fire. Overheating of the chain from friction when cutting is another potential fire hazard.
Cigarette butts – Conditions are dry enough that a discarded cigarette butt in grass or vegetation could start a fire. Extinguish any cigarette fully before discarding.
Cutting/welding/grinding – Avoid areas where sparks and/or discharge of hot burning metal can ignite anything flammable.
Debris burning – Permits are required and burning is not allowed when a burn suspension is in place. If burning is allowed, debris piles must be less than 10 feet in diameter and permit holders are required to follow the safe burning practices listed on their permit. Never leave a burn pile unattended and have water and tools to keep the fire in check.
Firearms – Using tracer rounds can start a fire in dry vegetation, as can ricochets from steel core shells on rocks or metal.
Fireworks – Should not be used over forest or dry grass.
Lawnmowers – Vegetation on hot parts, such as the muffler or engine, can start a fire. Sparks from blades striking rocks are also a danger.
Trailer chains – Trailer safety chains dragging on or hitting the road can send sparks and/or small, burning pieces of metal into grass along the side of the road or in ditches.
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, go to http://www.akfireinfo.com or visit the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center website at http://fire.ak.blm.gov. You can also call the fire information office at the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center at (907 356-5511.