Weather conditions were right for a prescribed burn by the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge last weekend and allowed state forestry officials to lift the burn-permit suspension Monday morning. But that may not last for long.
The ban on permitting burns "was lifted at 8 a.m. Monday morning, but that may be very short-lived. The suspension may go back on at any time," said Sharon Roesch, fire prevention officer for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources Division of Forestry in Soldotna.
While the area received some rain over the weekend and the humidity was up slightly, changing wind conditions could put the ban back on at any time, she said.
Residents who are issued burn permits for burning small piles of organic materials are required to call in to the issuing agency prior to lighting a fire. Residents also may call state forestry at 260-4269 for recorded, up-to-date burn conditions.
The Kenai Fire Department and Central Emergency Services in Soldotna, which also issue burn permits, joined in suspending the burn ban and also require residents to call in before starting a burn. Other requirements are that permitted burns only be done during daylight, the permit holder must be present at the fire at all times, water or equipment to put out the fire must be on hand and only organic materials may be burned. Garbage and anything that creates black smoke may not be burned.
The burn ban continued in Nikiski, according to Assistant Fire Chief Warren Isham.
"The wind is right at the 10 mph limit, so we're keeping the ban on," he said. "We are asking people to call in every day to check, however."
The weather did allow the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge to burn some of the prescribed acreage in its Mystery Creek burn project approximately 10 miles northeast of Sterling last weekend.
Although humidity did not reach high enough into the prescribed burn parameters Friday and wind direction wasn't favorable early Saturday, by Saturday afternoon, conditions were right and 585 acres of mostly black spruce was burned.
"We began our ignition at approximately 4 p.m. Saturday and had our containment established and were able to send nearly everybody home by midnight. We did keep a patrol crew on site," said Doug Newbould, fire management officer for the refuge.
The area burned -- bordered on one side by Mystery Creek Road and on another by an Enstar pipeline right of way -- is one of three scheduled for burning. Heavy rains came Sunday, however, preventing the burn planned for a 450-acre parcel, and another 1,981 acres will be ignited after that unit is burned.
The planned-burn project has a two-fold purpose: to kill and remove black spruce and to encourage the growth of birch, aspen and willow, hardwoods that are favored habitat for moose, said Newbould.
"We're trying to convert the area from a black spruce forest to at least a mixed hardwood forest," he said.
Roughly 5,000 acres are scheduled to be burned before the project is complete.
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