ANCHORAGE (AP) -- Tinder dry conditions are responsible for an earlier start of the official fire season in many areas of Alaska this spring.
Out-of-control trash burns have been blamed for three early wildfires in the SouthCentral part of the state. Firefighters said they were able to catch the blazes in the early stages, preventing larger and more potentially damaging burns.
The Kenai Peninsula will see its official fire season begin April 23. Permits for open burning will be required on lands south of Diamond Ridge, Skyline and Hutler Roads, including the north shore of Kachemak Bay through the McNeil Canyon drainage.
The Homer area is included in the early season declaration.
The fire season is to begin as usual on May 1 for the Matanuska-Susitna region (all lands within Game Management Unit 14) and the rest of the Kenai Peninsula.
Cooking and warming fires are excluded from the required permits. But care should be used in starting fires for any purpose, including smoking, state forestry officials said.
People are cautioned never to smoke while traveling through forests on foot or on all-terrain vehicles, state officials said.
The Alaska Division of Forestry is preparing for the fire season by training crews, inspecting aircraft and equipment and updating its planning with federal and local partners.
Fires must be attended at all times, state officials said. People responsible for causing wildfires may be liable for civil damages, including suppression costs.
Negligence and carelessness with open burning also can lead to criminal charges being filed, state officials said.
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