State agencies have already counted 62 human-caused wildfires in 2019
Part of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson is on fire, but people nearby don't have to worry.
Crews from the JBER Fire Department, the Alaska Division of Forestry, and Air Force Wildland Fire Branch started a multi-day prescribed burn Monday. They're setting fire to nearly 1,800 acres as they remove dry grass from military training ranges to help make it safer for those who use the area.
"They typically shoot a lot of different ordinance out here," said Jonathan Glover of the Air Force Wildland Fire Branch who is supervising the prescribed burn. "Historically, they wind up getting up getting ignitions off that ordinance, whether it's tracer rounds, or other stuff that pops out here."
Alaska's fire season runs from April 1 to August 31, according to the Department of Natural Resources, during which people must have a burn permit for nearly all open burning. It's already been a busy time lately for the Division of Forestry as it reported 13 human-caused wildfires across Alaska last weekend. All but two were located in the Mat-Su and on the Kenai Peninsula.
"One of those fires, the 2.5-acre Bluff Drive Fire in Ninilchik on Saturday, forced the evacuation of four homes, one of which was damaged by flames as the fire passed by the house," the statement from the agency reads.
Fast action by the state and local fire departments put out the blaze before it could get worse, according to a Facebook post from the Kenai Peninsula Borough.
As of Monday, there have been a total of 63 fires that have burned a combined 293 acres around the state, according to statistics compiled by the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center. Sixty-two of the fires were human-caused; one was caused by lightning.
With so many caused by people, the fires can also be prevented by people.
"A lot of these starts are either burn barrels, getting into the dry, cured grass, or debris burns that are getting away from folks," said Division of Forestry spokesman Phil Blydenburgh. "If you look around, and look at the stuff we're burning today, it's that cured dry grass. we get the low humidities, and just a little bit of wind, it doesn't take much to get a fire going in that grass."
Burn suspensions were issued for the Kenai Peninsula on Sunday and Monday and in Delta and Tok on Monday due to the dry conditions, according to the Division of Forestry's release. Open debris burning and the use of burn barrels are prohibited during a burn suspension. Small warming or camp fires under 3 feet in diameter are allowed.
The Division of Forestry reminds Alaskans to check the conditions before starting a controlled burn. A map of current burn suspensions and closures can be found on the state's website.
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