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Wildfire season off to early start

By Shannon Ballard 8:59 PM April 18, 2014

Wildfire season in Alaska is unfortunately getting off to an early start.

Already the Division of Forestry says 23 small fires have popped up around the state — including one on Thursday just off the Glenn Highway.

It has officials worried, they say.

Nearly everywhere forester John See looks he finds dry brush and dry trees, which is exactly where wildfires thrive.

“It doesn’t take much heat beneath a spruce tree for it to torch,” See said, who works for Anchorage Fire Department.

He expects this year’s wildfire season to come on strong. Snowpack is low and early spring temperatures are above normal. It’s now, before things green up, that the risk is the highest.

“All it takes is a nice, warm wind and a sunny day and then we’re back in the wildland  seasons,” said Anchorage firefighter Ed Scully.

For years the Anchorage Hillside has been one of the biggest concerns for the fire department. Flames spread up the hill toward homes surrounded by dense vegetation and limited access.

See works with Hillside residents like John Klein to protect their homes.

“The hillside is a big concern for fire. For us, it could wipe out our property,” Klein said.

Klein removed trees and cleared brush away from his home last year, making him feel much more prepared.

“After it’s happened it’s too late. But we can take these steps,” Klein said.

Firefighters say they’re ready for wildfires, but Anchorage is a city built in a forest and dry conditions are stacked against them.

Foresters say people start the majority of fires in the Anchorage Bowl.

Check out the muni website for burn tips and how to do it safely.

If you are caught burning on a no-burn day expect a fine, AFD says.

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