Springtime always brings an increase of wildfires, but fire officials say many could be prevented.
Training is under way at the Division of Forestry in Palmer to make sure those who want to be emergency firefighters are ready for the fire season.
"They're hoping to be assigned to fire crews later on this summer," said Matt Weaver with the Division of Forestry.
According to forestry officials, two out of three fires in Alaska are caused by humans. The reasons range from unattended campfires to cigarettes thrown into dry grass, and sometimes just carelessness.
Often times, controlled open burns in the Mat-Su get out of control, destroying whatever is in their path.
"Human-caused fire is a real concern for us and every human-caused fire that we prevent may save the state millions of dollars, and may save many homes, even people's lives," Weaver said.
Firefighters with the Central Mat-Su Fire Department have stayed busy this week, putting out small backyard blazes.
"Probably since Monday we've had about a half-dozen escaped fires that we've had to respond to and help out on. Nothing too serious yet, but everything has potential, especially with the way the conditions are now," said Michael Keenan, the department's assistant chief.
There are restrictions on open burning during this time of year in the Mat-Su Borough. Burn permits are required.
Here are some of the rules:
- Organic debris pile must be no larger than 4 feet high and 10 feet in diameter, or less than one acre of mowed lawn and field with grass four inches or less.
- Only burn when winds are blowing less than 5 miles per hour.
- Fires must be completely extinguished before leaving.
- Do not burn within 30 feet of structures or under power lines.
"A majority of the time where we have escapements is the wind picks up unexpectedly and the fire gets out of its perimeter and that's when we run into problems like that," Keenan said.
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