Prevailing dry weather conditions, too little water content in the winter's snowfall and the amount of fuel in the form of grass and insect-killed spruce have combined to lead state forestry officials to declare and early fire season for Southcentral Alaska.
The fire season, which started Tuesday, includes parts of the Kenai Peninsula, the Kodiak Archipelago and the Matanuska and Susitna valleys.
Typically, fire season runs from May 1 to Sept. 30, according to state forester Jeff Jahnke, who issued the early declaration. The fire season requires people to obtain burn permits before burning open fires other than small cooking and warming fires. If necessary, fires also can be further restricted with a fire ban.
That's already happened in Anchorage.
Anchorage Fire Department Chief John Fullenwider enacted a total fire ban in the city for all open burning, including all warming, cooking or ceremonial fires. That ban expands from Girdwood to Eklutna.
Meanwhile, Alaska State Parks Acting Director Pete Panarese has prohibited campfires or open fires in all state parks in Southcentral Alaska except in a portable camp stove or confined to a structure provided by the division.
Starting the burn-permit program early will allow the division to monitor activities that unduly increase the wild land fire danger. The additional restrictions in Anchorage and Chugach State Park are placed to reduce potential ignition sources within high population areas, an Alaska Department of Natural Resources press release said.
"We have super-dry conditions out there, and we need to be able to monitor burning activities to prevent the start of wild land fires," Jahnke said. "We also need the flexibility to close down burning if we get some more of the high-wind conditions that we saw earlier this year."
Burn permits outside Anchor-age can be obtained at the nearest Alaska Division of Forestry office or through local fire departments. With permits, residents may burn open fires with certain restrictions and under certain conditions.
Permit holders must call the division on any intended burn day to see if Forestry will allow burning that day.
According to the press release, burn permits are required on all state, private and municipal lands on the Kenai Peninsula west of the Kenai Mountains. This includes areas from North Kenai to Homer's Fox River Drainage and east to the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Additionally, the Seward Fire Department issues burning permits for the city of Seward and the Kodiak Fire Department issues permits for the city of Kodiak and surrounding fire service areas.
Burn permits for properties within the cities of Soldotna, Homer and Kenai, and within the Nikiski and Anchor Point fire service areas may be obtained from their respective fire departments.
The Division of Forestry issues all other burning permits. Forestry has an office at Mile 92.5 of the Sterling Highway, or call 260-4222 or 235-7734 for more information.
Burning permits are not required in Cooper Landing, Moose Pass or areas across Kache-mak Bay from Homer. Fire statutes are enforceable in these areas and include a mineral soil firebreak around the material to be burned, someone attending the fire until it is completely out and maintaining control to prevent the spread of the fire.
Notification greatly would assist with the reduction of a false alarm response to your controlled burn in these areas, the division said.
In Cooper Landing, residents are asked to notify the Cooper Landing Volunteer Fire Department at 595-1260. Individuals burning along the Seward Highway on the peninsula are asked to notify Seward dispatch at 224-3338.
Persons burning across Kachemak Bay are asked to notify Homer Dispatch at 235-3150. No burning should be conducted during windy conditions.
The division said campfires and burn barrels don't require permits, but must adhere to the following guidelines:
Barrels must be covered with a metal screen. Barrels are not allowed in the city of Kenai.
Campfires and burn barrels must be located in dirt areas away from vegetation.
Water for extinguishing fires must be on site.
Any fire must be attended until it is completely out.
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