What’s the difference between a state burn suspension and closure?

Understandably, there seems to be some confusion amongst the public regarding the campfire closure that was recently issued – and has since been rescinded – by the Alaska Division of Forestry and how that relates to burn suspensions. The first thing you need to know is that Division of Forestry burn closures and suspensions apply only to state, private and municipal lands, but municipalities and boroughs may implement burning restrictions. Division of Forestry burn closures and suspensions do not apply to federal lands. You need to check with the agency in charge of managing that land and the municipality or borough to determine what, if any, burn restrictions are in effect. That could be the Bureau of Land Management, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service or U.S. Forest Service.

Division of Forestry burn suspensions and burn closures are two different things. A burn suspension applies to burn permits issued by Division of Forestry Area offices for open debris burning, lawn burning and the use of burn barrels. All these types of burning require a burn permit from the Alaska Division of Forestry issued under the authority of AS 41.15.010 – 41.15.170, AS 41.15.950 – 41.15.970 of the Public Resources Statutes governing the establishment of fire seasons and regulations of burning permits. Permits may be modified, suspended or revoked at any time. Alaska statutes governing open burning apply to all state, private and municipal lands, even if a burn permit is not required.

Area-specific burn permits are issued by Division of Forestry Area offices in Delta Junction, Fairbanks, Glennallen, McGrath, Palmer, Soldotna, and Tok. Each Area office evaluates fire danger in their area on a daily basis to determine whether people in that area will be allowed to burn that day. If it’s determined that the fire danger is too high based on conditions or forecasted weather, Area offices will temporarily suspend burn permits in their respective areas to prohibit open debris burning, lawn burning and the use of burn barrels until conditions moderate. Anyone who plans to burn is required to call their local Forestry office or go online at http://forestry.alaska.gov/burn to make sure burning is allowed on that day.

During a burn suspension it is still legal to have a campfire that is less than 3 feet in diameter and no more than 2 feet high. However, State Forestry recommends that you refrain from lighting any open fire until changing weather conditions have reduced the fire danger. Any fire larger than 3 feet in diameter and 2 feet high requires either a small-scale or large-scale burn permit. Large-scale burn permits are required for any fire that is larger than 10 feet in diameter and more than 4 feet high. A site inspection by a Division of Forestry prevention officer is required to obtain a large-scale burn permit.

A burn closure, meanwhile, applies to the setting of all fires, burning, entry, or other use of land that is prohibited within a designated area or statewide, as determined by the Commissioner of Natural Resources. A burn closure requires public notice to establish and rescind. During a burn closure, no burning of any kind is allowed. Burn closures may be issued due to high to extreme fire danger, low resource availability or a Red Flag weather watch or warning. During times of extreme fire danger, the State Forester may close an area to burning. In the case, of the recent campfire closure that was issued by the Division of Forestry but has since been rescinded, it was decided to prohibit only campfires while allowing the use of approved burning devices, the definition of which can be found in the state’s fire regulations.

About Alaska Division of Forestry

Alaska Division of Forestry website: http://forestry.alaska.gov/ Mission: The Alaska Division of Forestry proudly serves Alaskans through forest management and wildland fire protection. The Wildland Fire and Aviation Program provides safe, cost-effective and efficient fire protection services and related fire and aviation management activities to protect human life and values on State, private and municipal lands. The wildland fire program cooperates with other wildland fire agencies on a statewide, interagency basis.

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