Memorial Day Weekend marks the unofficial start of summer in Alaska and with it comes the potential for increased wildfire activity.
The first holiday weekend of the summer traditionally leads to new wildfire starts caused by campfires, debris burning, barbecue grills, use of all-terrain vehicles, fireworks, target shooting and other favorite recreational activities people enjoy during the weekend.
While the 2017 Alaska wildland fire season is off to a slow start, that can change with a few hot, sunny days that dry fuels out and make them ripe for ignition. So far this season, there have been 115 fires that have burned 2,251 acres in Alaska. Most of the fires to date have been small blazes that have been quickly brought under control. All but four of this year’s fires have been human caused; the others were started by lightning.
Here are a few tips from the Alaska Division of Forestry and BLM Alaska Fire Service to keep in mind this weekend to help reduce the potential for wildfires:
- Never leave a fire of any kind unattended for any length of time.
- In areas where open burning is allowed, make sure you have a Division of Forestry burn permit and follow the safe burning guidelines listed on it. You must call your local state forestry office or go online to ensure burning is allowed on the day you want to burn. For burn permit information, go to http://forestry.alaska.gov/burn/.
- Keep campfires small and away from grasses and other vegetation that can catch fire.
- Make sure campfires are completely extinguished by repeatedly drowning them with water and stirring the coals/ashes 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.
State and federal fire managers encourage Alaskans and visitors to be careful with any kind of activity that could spark a wildfire. Remember, anyone responsible for starting a wildfire can be held responsible for the suppression costs associated with that fire.