Starting as early as Saturday, the Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service (BLM AFS), in cooperation with U.S. Army Alaska (USARAK), could start setting prescribed fires on Fort Wainwright and the Yukon Training Area (YTA) to reduce the likelihood of a large wildfire on military training lands this summer.
The areas identified for the prescribed burns in the Small Arms Complex on Fort Wainwright are immediately southeast of Fairbanks on the south side of the Richardson Highway. The areas scheduled for burning in the YTA are five miles north and two to 20 miles east of Eielson Air Force Base. The prescribed burning may continue through May 31, as weather conditions allow.
Prescribed burns are fires that are intentionally set under controlled conditions to remove dry and dead grass and lower the risk of wildfires that could impact nearby communities. Removing the hazardous vegetation in the spring under more moderate conditions allows for the greatest degree of control and the lowest risk of negative impacts, such as smoke.
Taking these preventative measures now decreases the fire danger around military training targets used during the summer when conditions are hotter, drier and more receptive to burning, and firefighting resources may be limited. Fires will be ignited only when favorable weather conditions are present and forecasted. An approved burn plan is in place that includes authorization from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC) Division of Air Quality.
Smoke may be visible during burning operations from communities and roadways around the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The BLM AFS and USARAK are working with ADEC and the National Weather Service to monitor smoke conditions and to ensure compliance with local, state, and federal air quality regulations. There are also procedures in place to halt ignitions if conditions become unfavorable. Trained personnel will monitor the prescribed fire areas until the fires are out.
In addressing this priority work, all agencies will limit COVID-19 and other health and safety risks to firefighters and the public using established Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state, and local guidelines, and prescribed fire procedures. This includes potential smoke effects on people.
For more information contact AFS Fire Information at (907) 356-5510 or the Upper Yukon-Tanana Dispatch Center at (907) 356-5555.