ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - Fire experts are predicting an early wildfire season in much of Southcentral Alaska after March brought record warm temperatures to the region.
The National Significant Wildland Fire Potential Outlook, issued by the National Interagency Fire Center’s Predictive Services for the month of April, shows "above normal" wildland fire potential extending from the southern tip of the Kenai Peninsula all the way north to Fairbanks.
Division of Forestry Assistant Fire Management Officer for the Mat-Su Phil Blydenburgh said early snowmelt, warming trends, and frequent high winds have already caused ten fires in Southcentral in 2019.
“This season, we are seeing the snowmelt two to three weeks earlier than typical,” Blydenburgh said. “Typically, the trend has been we’re starting to have earlier fire seasons, especially in Southcentral Alaska.”
Early snowmelt exposes grass, or fine flashing fuels, and high winds wick the moisture out of the grass, making it nature’s effective kindling for wildfires early in the year. Blydenburgh is issuing caution to Alaskans burning during the legal burning period, April 1 through August 31.
“It feels cool outside, but with a little bit of sunshine and this wind that you will get, it can really dry those fine fuels out pretty fast,” he said. “Just be safe if you are doing any open burning.”
Blydenburgh said burn permits are required for any open burning, and for Mat-Su area residents to extinguish fires during periods of high wind activity.