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Wildfire season gets an early start

Alaska has seen record-breaking wildfire seasons in recent years. (Photo courtesy of the Alaska Division of Forestry)
Alaska has seen record-breaking wildfire seasons in recent years. (Photo courtesy of the Alaska Division of Forestry)

The season’s first wildfires are getting attention. The Alaska Interagency Coordination reports a 25-acre blaze in the Palmer being worked by 13 firefighters, with smaller blazes in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, on the Kenai and in the Fairbanks area, drawing responses or being monitored in recent days.

The early season wildfires are attributed to human causes. Division of Forestry spokesman Tim Mowry said the burning of brush and trash are common in the spring, and often start wildfires.

”We’ve seen a lot of problems with burned barrels as far as fires escaping,” Mowry said. “Just because you have a 55-gallon drum with a couple holes in it doesn’t make it a good burn barrel.”

Outdoor burning requires a permit, and Mowry said that’s been expanded this spring to include the use of burn barrels. Mowry said failing to follow burn rules can result in citations and fines if you start a wildfire.

“You can be held accountable for the suppression cost – twice the suppression cost – of that fire,” said Mowry.

Aside from human-caused starts, Mowry said the state is keeping an eye on two coal seam fires that have sprung up in the Healy area.

”They’re sort of burning all the time,” Mowry said. “Then when you get in some warm dryer weather they can pop up, produce flames, produce smoke which is sort of what’s happening now.”

Mowry said the coal seam fires are active earlier than normal, but will only be fought if they escape to surrounding lands.

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