Training ramps up with wildfire season

It’s wildfire season in Southcentral Alaska and firefighters are gearing up.

A week of simulations kicked off Monday in Palmer for incident commanders practicing complicated wildfire scenarios they might face this summer.

The annual training is a good warm-up for the incident commanders, said Alaska Division of Forestry spokesperson Norm McDonald.

“(It’s) a way for them to kind of knock the rust off and get ready for the fire season,” McDonald said.

A big part of an incident commander’s job is developing strategies to deal with fires as they go from small to potentially larger blazes.

The training simulations also feature realistic sounding radio traffic, and McDonald said anybody monitoring the airwaves — including journalists — should be aware.

“When we haven’t notified them we’ve had calls thinking it’s an actual fire, and they called looking for a story on it,” McDonald said.

The practice scenarios come as snow is still melting in some places, but McDonald said there have been wildfires so far this spring.

More are surely to come, and McDonald said Alaskans should be safe with their fires.

“With the drier conditions we’ve had, we are in fire season,” McDonald said. “We just ask people to be really careful when they’re burning, and burn permits are required.”

For more information on burn permits, contact your local fire department.

Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly, a general assignment reporter and an editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at Read more about Casey here

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