In June 2018, House Bill 355 (HB 355) was approved by the Alaska Legislature. What is HB 355? HB355 modernizes the penalties for burning offenses committed on state, municipal, and privately-owned land throughout Alaska. It is the first major revision of Alaska’s wildland fire statutes and regulations since 1961, two years after statehood.
A typical fire season in Alaska sees approximately 500 wildfires that burn an estimated 650,000 acres. Every year more than 80 percent of these fires are human-caused as a result of the careless or negligent use of fire which escapes from burn barrels, campfires, burn piles and more. These human-caused fires threaten communities, property owners, and businesses throughout Alaska.
In 2018, there was a total of 362 fires that burned 411,177 acres. Of those 362 fires, 224 were human-caused and totaled 28,984 acres. In 2019, we have experienced a much more extreme season due to dryer and harsher fire conditions. To date, there have been 702 fires that have burned a total of nearly 2.5 million acres. Of the 702 fires, 318 were human-caused and burned an estimated 40,318 acres.
To help the Division of Forestry enhance public awareness and education regarding human-caused fires and the impacts of HB355, it has been paired up with the “Take Time to LEARN Before You Burn” campaign. This campaign focuses specifically on reducing human-caused wildland fires in Alaska by 10% annually for the next four years. The campaign is directed towards populations that are a part of the wildland urban interface (WUI). WUI areas are defined as areas where houses are built close to or within natural terrain and flammable vegetation.
The HB355 and “Take Time to LEARN Before Your Burn” campaign brings with it revitalized wildfire prevention laws and new public education tools, as well as platforms to help prevent human-caused wildland fires across Alaska.
Reducing the number of human-caused fires in Alaska will not only provide a safer environment for the public and firefighters, but it will also assist with reducing the loss of structures, property damage, and fire suppression costs.
For more information please contact, Statewide Fire Prevention Program Assistant, Stephanie Bishop, at 907-795-3006.
Categories: AK Fire Info