Alaska’s wildland fire season commences with cautionary measures

April 9, 2024

Fire season underway in Alaska

April 1 marked the official start of Alaska’s wildland fire season, a period extending through August 31 as mandated by state law.

This five-month span is historically known for its susceptibility to wildfires, with the state experiencing the scorching of up to 1 million acres annually over the past two decades.

According to Lily Coyle, the Department of Natural Resources’ Division of Forestry and Fire Protection Public Information Officer, the ignition of these fires is often facilitated by the state’s dead, dry, and highly flammable grass, coupled with the windy conditions characteristic of Alaska’s spring months.

Importance of vigilance and permits

Coyle emphasized the unpredictable nature of fire conditions during this time: “Conditions can change really fast. We all know that in spring in Alaska.

“It takes a couple of sunny days and all of the sudden the dead, dry grass is out and that’s what we’re really worried about in April and May.”

She further highlighted the necessity of burn permits for any burning activities exceeding the size of a campfire, even at this early stage of the season when snow is still present.

This requirement is a key component of the state’s strategy to mitigate human-caused fires, which represent a significant portion of the springtime incidents the department addresses.

Preventive measures and community effort

The majority of spring fires are attributed to human activities and are deemed entirely preventable.

Coyle detailed the scope of the Department of Forestry’s small-scale burn permit, which encompasses burning in a burn barrel, burn piles up to 10 feet in diameter and no taller than 4 feet, and up to an acre of lawn.

Permit holders are provided with a hotline for additional advice from prevention officers and are encouraged to adhere to safety guidelines to prevent the outbreak of wildfires.

For larger-scale burning projects, individuals are required to obtain a specific permit following a site inspection by the division.

Coyle shared that there has been an almost 10% decrease in the number of wildland fires across Alaska, attributing this improvement to the adherence of Alaskans to the Department of Forestry’s prevention campaigns.

The Alaska Wildland Fire Information Center offers current details on state fire responses, reinforcing the communal effort towards wildfire prevention and safety.

FSJA Comment

The onset of Alaska’s wildland fire season brings to light the critical balance between human activity and natural ecosystem preservation.

The state’s proactive measures, including the requirement of burn permits and the dissemination of safety guidelines, reflect a comprehensive approach to wildfire management.

These efforts, bolstered by community compliance and awareness, demonstrate the potential for significant impact in reducing human-caused wildfires.

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