Wildfire season closing in

Posted: Tuesday, April 30, 2002

The 2002 wildfire season is approaching faster than a wind-fueled, beetle-killed spruce inferno.

That's the message fire managers are trying to get across these days. Spring means people will be cleaning their property, removing dead trees, clearing brush and burning wood piles. And that means a greater potential for wildfires to get started, according to Sharon Roesch of the Alaska Division of Forestry.

Roesch said people can reduce the risk of wildfires by taking a few simple precautions.

"You should be looking at your home and fireproofing your house," she said recently.

She said taking a few simple steps, such as clearing brush and trees from near structures, clearing drains and removing dead grass can make a big difference.

"There's a lot of things you can do (to protect against fire)," she said.

Roesch said the forestry division also would like people to be aware of burn piles, especially ones that have been neglected since winter.

"Those slash piles can go underground and come back," she said.

Companies as well as private individuals need to be aware that fires can still be dangerous even after they appear to be out. That's why burned material should be spread out and have a firebreak scraped around it to ensure the fire does not reignite.

Burn permits are need on the peninsula from May 1 through the end of September. A permit is required for slash piles and other materials on state land.

If anyone has burning to do, they should get it done soon before the ground gets too dry, Roesch said.

"They should probably (burn) now. People should try to burn as the grass dries out, and make sure they have clean (burn) piles. The key is clean piling," she said.

Roesch said it's important to make sure burn piles are clean and free of excess dirt, so the fire does not smolder and work its way into the ground.

Ample supplies, such as shovels, rakes and water, also should be close at hand in order to suppress the fire.

Roesch also said people should be extremely careful when burning in proximity to dried, cured grass and beetle-killed spruce trees, as they are especially volatile fuels that can rapidly burn out of control.

The Alaska Division of Forestry and local fire departments have free copies of the Alaska FireWise Program Guide, as well as burn permits for the upcoming season, available to help area residents prepare for the 2002 wildfire season.

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