Burn suspension lifted for most of Alaska due to rainy weekend

Members of the Pioneer Peak Hotshot Crew cut down a fire-weakened tree while working to contain the 56-acre Moose Meadows Fire on Sunday, May 17, 2020 (Photo from Pioneer Peak Hotshot Crew/Alaska Division of Forestry)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Division of Forestry is rescinding a statewide burn suspension for all areas of the state except the Kenai Peninsula. The end of the burn suspension comes in part because of the rainy Memorial Day weekend.

The burn suspension was put in place on May 1 due to what forestry officials were calling "extremely dry conditions." Those dry conditions, on top of the travel restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic, worried fire officials because it limited their ability to bring in firefighters from the Lower 48 to assist with wildfires.

“Working with DHSS, we now have a system in place that increases the likelihood of getting assistance from the Lower 48,” Alaska Division of Forestry Wildland Fire and Aviation Program Manager Norm McDonald said. “That, combined with the rain that fell over the weekend, prompted us to re-evaluate the current need for a burn permit suspension.”

The state fire manager of the Kenai Peninsula has elected to keep the burn permit suspension in place, citing greater traffic to the area during the salmon fishing season.

McDonald still urges residents to follow safe burning guidelines as warmer weather could elevate the fire danger. A decision to reinstate a burn permit suspension could happen again if the Division of Forestry sees a higher fire risk in parts of the state.

Already the Division of Forestry has responded to 76 wildfires that have burned around 230 acres this summer, the division said. That is compared to a total of 85 fires burning 3,404 acres last year.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” McDonald said. “Warmer, drier weather is expected to develop over most of the state later this week and it won’t take long for fire danger to elevate, given how dry conditions were previously.”

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