McGRATH (AP) -- The state Department of Natural Resources planned to ignite a large prescribed burn Friday on state land in the Farewell area of the western Interior.
The fire is intended to improve habitat for moose, bison and other wildlife in the 47,000-acre area of the Farewell Burn, which includes a section of the Iditarod Trail.
''We want to burn the grass off and kill at least 50 percent of regenerated spruce that regrew after the Farewell Burn in 1977,'' said Jeff Brown, a fire information officer in McGrath for the Division of Forestry.
''It'll open up a little more surface area for regrowth of grass and forbs and stuff -- food the moose and bison really like,'' he said.
The bison were brought to the area by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game after the 1977 fire, and they flourished with the forage then, Browne said.
The area is about 50 miles southeast of McGrath.
Officials say the burn has been in the planning stages for several years.
''It's a very good time now because of the subsurface moisture from spring runoff. Grasses and other surface fuels are dry but the subsurface is still wet and there are patches of snow and ice in the area,'' Browne said.
On Thursday, crews burned a line around the perimeter of the area and did some work protecting a bison hunting camp, Browne said. The main fire is expected to burn for four to seven days, depending on the weather, Browne said.
Over the next five years, the division is hoping to burn off about half the acreage in the area, Browne said. If conditions are just right, that could happen this year, he said. The current burn is the only one planned for this year.
Firefighters will be standing by to protect private property outside the burn area.
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