(Fairbanks, AK) – With extremely dry conditions persisting across much of Alaska, wildland fire managers are asking the public to be mindful of the potential for wildfires during Memorial Day weekend.
“For many Alaskans, Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start of summer,” Alaska Division of Forestry Wildland Fire & Aviation Program Manager Norm McDonald said. “We know lots of people are going to be out camping, hiking, boating, barbecuing, and enjoying other forms of recreation over the holiday weekend. We just ask them to be extremely careful when it comes to the potential for starting wildfires.”
A burn permit suspension implemented by the Alaska Division of Forestry remains in effect for Fairbanks, Delta, Copper River Basin, Mat-Su, and Kenai Peninsula. The suspension prohibits the use of burn barrels, burning of brush piles and burning of lawns. The burn permit suspension was put in place to reduce human-caused wildfires due to the fire danger in many areas of the state being warm, dry, and windy. Anchorage Municipality’s Burn Ban remains in place prohibiting campfires, burn pits, and open fires
Campfires 3 feet or less in diameter with flame lengths less than 2 feet high are allowed during a burn permit suspension, but fire managers advise being cautious with a campfire in these conditions. While spring green-up is occurring around the state, the lack of precipitation has left dead surface fuels very dry and susceptible to ignition. Despite multiple burn permit suspensions, the Division of Forestry continues to respond to numerous illegal burning activities that have resulted in several wildfires.
Alaska’s wildfire season officially started April 1 and wildland firefighters have already responded to fire calls. As of Wednesday, 124 wildfires have burned approximately 11,371 acres. Nearly 80% of those fires – 98– have been caused by humans, accounting for about 975 acres. The mid-April Kwethluk Fire in southwest Alaska’s Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge burned 10,305.5 acres. Its cause has yet to be determined.
Here are a few tips from the Alaska Division of Forestry, BLM Alaska Fire Service, National Park Service, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and U.S. Forest Service to help prevent wildfires this weekend and the rest of the summer:
- Never leave a fire unattended.
- 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. Call your local state forestry office or go online to ensure burning is allowed on the day you want to burn.
- Clear areas around campfires down to mineral soil to reduce the chances of escapement.
- Keep campfires small and manageable.
- Have tools and water on hand to prevent fires from escaping.
- Make sure campfires are completely extinguished before you leave them, by repeatedly drowning them with water and stirring the coals and ashes until they are cold to the touch.
- 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.
Information about safe burning practices is available at local forestry offices, local fire departments and online at http://forestry.alaska.gov/burn. A directory of statewide forestry offices can be found at http://forestry.alaska.gov.
Remember, you are responsible for any fire you start.