“Alaska snowpack now melts nearly two weeks earlier in the spring compared to the late 1990s.” – read the full report by Alaska Fire Science Consortium (AFSC).
Bright and sunny spring days are a good reminder as to why Alaska’s state law requires burn permits from April 1st through August 31st. Brush pile burning and the use of burn barrels are two of the leading sources of human caused wildland fires in Alaska. Each year as the snow rapidly melts, the fine dead grassy fuels dry out in the bright sunshine and unintentional wildfires are easily sparked. Exposed, dead grass and brush in yards and around burn barrels can dry out within just a few short hours of sunlight and become extremely flammable. In most cases, grass fires spread rapidly and can cause damage to structures, home, equipment, and other infrastructure. Unextinguished hot ember and ash piles can thaw the ground and burn down into root systems, mulch, and moss and rekindle in later weeks when hot, dry weather settles in.
“In April and May most of the fires we respond to are started by some type of human activity. We typically don’t see lightning-caused fires until late May or early June,” said Division of Forestry & Fire Protection Chief of Fire & Aviation Norm McDonald. “That means most early-season fires are preventable. If people follow the safe burning guidelines on their burn permits, we as Alaskans can help each other out and prevent unintentional wildfires.”
Division of Forestry & Fire Protection (DOF) burn permits are required on all state, municipal and private lands that do not have a local government burn permit program in effect. The DOF small-scale burn permits are good for burning one brush pile, using one burn barrel, or the burning of maintained lawn. The small-scale permits contain easily understood pictures and directions to undertake safe and legal burning. They also contain links to current and predicted weather patterns, burn permit restrictions, and the legal actions that can be taken if burning unsafely or a wildfire is caused. Large-scale permitting is issued for any burning not covered under the small-scale permit and has more stringent requirements which may include a site inspection, additional people, water, and heavy equipment.
DOF small-scale permits can be printed online from https://dnr.alaska.gov/burn. We recommend using this website as a helpful resource for learning about current conditions, burn restrictions in your area, and safe burning practices in Alaska. Burn permits are free and are available at local state DOF offices in Delta Junction, Fairbanks, Glennallen, Palmer, Soldotna and Tok, as well as local fire departments. Local government regulations may prohibit open burning. It’s important to do some research wherever you are as local governments may have their own burn permit program in place. Residents are required to check with their local officials to determine what the burning requirements are in their area before obtaining a DOF permit. If no program exists, then a DOF burn permit is required on and after April 1st. If you believe you are in need of a Large-scale burn permit, contact your nearest DOF office for further instructions.
Commonly Asked Questions – Quick Reference
What Can Be Burned?: Material that can be burned with a permit includes organic material such as leaves, brush, grass, lawn clippings, untreated wood, paper, or cardboard. It is illegal to burn substances such as plastics, garbage, rubber, Styrofoam, insulation, asbestos, painted or treated wood or anything else that produces black smoke. Those burning such materials can be cited and fined.
Required for Camping? Burn permits are NOT required for camping, cooking or warming fires less than three feet in diameter with flame lengths less than two feet high. Violators of the permit requirements and safe burning instructions can be cited and held both criminally and civilly liable for the sometimes very substantial damage caused by an escaped fire.
Is Spring Arriving Earlier? In the last 20 years, Alaskans have experienced the trend towards earlier, longer, and more intense fire seasons. Four of the 10 largest fire seasons on record in Alaska since 1939 have occurred since 2004. In 2006, the Alaska Legislature took legislative action after historic back-to-back, record wildfire seasons in 2004 and 2005. A bill was passed that advanced the start of the wildland fire season and burn permit requirement from May 1st to April 1st. The change was made at the request of Alaska’s wildland fire management agencies with the primary goal of reducing human-caused fires before spring green-up.
What does Alaska’s Scientific Community Say? An intensified pattern of wildfire is emerging with both tundra and boreal forest regions seeing larger and more frequent fires. The impacts of these fires are felt across the state.
Click to access Alaskas Changing Wildfire Environment Study
When Should I Burn Debris? DOF encourages Alaskans to burn debris early in the season when the ground is still wet and fire danger is low, instead of waiting until later in the spring or summer when conditions are drier.
Those with questions about burn permits and safe burning practices should contact their local forestry office. We also invite you to learn about DOF’s upcoming trainings as there are job openings and we are hiring many non-fire crew positions!
Online burn permits can be downloaded at https://dnr.alaska.gov/burn
Red Card classes and trainings can be viewed at https://forestry.alaska.gov/training/
#2023AlaskaFireSeason #wildlandfire #fireprevention #wildlandfiretraining #TakeTimeToLearnBeforeYouBurn
Categories: AK Fire Info, Alaska DNR - Division of Forestry (DOF), Fire Prevention