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Late spring keeps fire danger down for now in Fairbanks, Interior

Posted: Monday, May 06, 2002

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- The wettest April in Fairbanks in almost 100 years hasn't necessarily put a damper on the threat of wildfires in the Interior, according to the people who are paid to worry about fire.

''We've had other years when we've had late springs,'' said Andy Williams at the Alaska Fire Service. ''It doesn't have too much effect on the fire season. Eventually the ground is going to dry out and we're going to have fires.''

Thanks to a snowy April, Fairbanks and surrounding areas have been fire-free so far. The 15.4 inches of snow that fell at Fairbanks International Airport was the second-heaviest April snowfall in 98 years and there is still snow on the ground in some areas, especially hills.

Alaska has two basic fire seasons, Williams said: pre-greenup and post-greenup. The first occurs after the ground dries out but before new leaves and grass appear.

Fires in late April and May often are small, human-caused blazes in residential areas that are a result of people burning brush.

Early-season fires are the most dangerous because they are usually in residential areas, Williams said. The cool, wet weather has so far prevented any human-caused blazes as a result of burn piles spreading out of control.

Firefighters from the state Division of Forestry have usually doused a few fires by now, said fire prevention technician Alan Martin.

''It's been a little slow,'' he said. ''People aren't thinking about cleaning up their yards yet.''

Greenup typically occurs in Fairbanks May 8-10 but the cooler weather will likely delay greenup this spring for at least a week, according to meteorologist Ted Fathauer at the National Weather Service.

The second fire season runs from June to August, when larger, more remote fires are ignited by lightning strikes.



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