Burn permit required beginning April 1 as Alaska wildfire season approaches
PALMER, Alaska (KTUU) – It was a brisk Thursday morning with temperatures barely above freezing, but that doesn’t change the fact that starting Friday will officially be wildfire season. here in Alaska. Kristian Knutson of the Alaska Forestry Division’s Mat-Su Region said there’s a reason the season is starting so early.
“We actually get that question a lot at our events and things around the Valley,” Knutson said. “…As the snow recedes, we are beginning to expose our dry grass from last year…which is extremely flammable and can spread extremely quickly.”
That’s why, from April 1 through August 31, residents will need to obtain a permit from the state before burning. And while this rule is enforced statewide, it’s especially prevalent in the borough of Matanuska Susitna, as homeowners are still cleaning up after January’s storm left properties littered with brush and debris. .
Alaska’s wildfire seasons are notorious – the most notable in recent years is 2019, when south-central Alaska experienced an unusually hot and dry summer. This created near perfect conditions which fueled the Swan Lake Fire between Sterling and Cooper Landing as well as the McKinley Fire north of Willow which devastated the community and destroyed over 50 homes.
While these particular fires were not man-made, that is not always the case. According to Knutson, about half of wildfires across the state are human-caused.
“But in the Mat-Su, that number is higher,” Knutson said. “So about three-quarters of our fires are human-caused and that’s important because if 75% of your fires are human-caused, if you could educate people and change their behavior a bit, you could reduce that number. destructive fires.”
Knutson recommends burning while there is still enough snow on the ground to completely surround a fire, otherwise wait until greening is complete. If a person fails to obtain a burning permit, fire prevention officers can issue costly citations and individuals can even be held criminally or civilly liable for any damage caused by an escaped fire.
“The best thing you can do is get a burn permit if you’re going to burn. And I really believe, having done this for a few years now, that it’s a good document — it’s good documents,” Knutson said. “They really distill, like exactly what you need to do to prevent a wildfire.”
Once a burn permit is obtained, it is also important to remember a few key things. Never leave a fire unattended, keep a water source nearby and make sure the fire is properly extinguished. Knutson said that even if a fire has died out, it could still be up to 600 degrees underground, so the burn area must be cool to the touch to be considered extinguished.
Even though wildfires are a natural cycle, Knutson said the mega-fires Alaska has seen in recent years are not. Following the rules and regulations put in place by the state, as well as maintaining a fireproof home and property, are key to avoiding potentially catastrophic outcomes.
For more information on how to obtain a burning permit, combustion requirementsas well as ways to prepare a property for a wildfireresources and teaching materials are available on the Forestry Division website.
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