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Dry spring puts damper on burn permits

Posted: Sunday, May 04, 2003

FAIRBANKS (AP) Dry, windy weather has prompted the state Division of Forestry to suspend burning in much of Interior Alaska plus the Kenai Peninsula, the Matanuska and Susitna valleys and the Copper River basin.

The decision came one day after the official start of the Interior fire season.

Burn permits are required to do any type of burning in the Fairbanks North Star Borough starting May 1, according to Robert Schmoll, fire management officer for the Division of Forestry in Fairbanks. With the snow melted and the ground drying out, the risk of wildfires increases daily until greenup, Schmoll said.

Right now the primary threat is cured grass,'' he said. Leaf litter is also starting to dry out pretty good and can carry a fire.''

The state suspended burning Friday because winds were forecast to be 15 to 25 mph and relative humidity was less than 15 percent.

A red flag'' warning was issued for the Copper River Basin, which means that conditions are ripe for a large wildfire.

The burn suspension will be lifted when weather conditions change.

The Alaska Fire Service, meanwhile, was not waiting for the fire season to start by itself. The service planned to ignite prescribed burns at Chena Lakes Flood Control Project in North Pole and on Fort Greely near Delta Junction over the weekend.

Forecasters also predicted high winds and low relative humidity for the Mat-Su area.

The continuous dry spell this spring is unusual, said Wyn Menefee, a spokesman for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources. Every spring, winds blow down the Matanuska and Susitna valleys, drying brush and trees out, Menefee said.

That's happened almost every year. Then we end up in red flag,'' he said. But we haven't seen this continuous of dry conditions for a while.''

So far this season, firefighters have responded to 88 fires on state-managed lands, a relatively high number for this time of year.



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