As fire season approaches, trees and grasses have yet to green up

Surface fuels burn in the Moose Creek Fire late Saturday afternoon near Sutton. The fire is now estimated at 216 acres and there are 50 personnel working to suppress it. (Photo by Sarah Saarloos/Alaska Division of Forestry)
Surface fuels burn in the Moose Creek Fire last October near Sutton. (Photo by Sarah Saarloos/Alaska Division of Forestry)

With temperatures rising and little rainfall across much of the state: fire season is here.

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But Alaska’s trees and grasses aren’t quite ready, according to Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service spokesperson Beth Ipsen.

“Greening up is, is when leaves, when the trees start to leave, leaf up and we have green grass,” Ipsen said. “So right now the grass is dead, so it’s very susceptible to ignitions.”

Ipsen said that the areas of greatest concern are not in the middle of nowhere, but rather the places where people live.

“At this time of the year, we have more human starts, we don’t have lightning strikes, that happens later on in the summer,” Ipsen said.

In particular, Ipsen said some fires start because Alaskans are getting their yards ready for the summer.

“It’s springtime, people are cleaning up, doing a little spring cleaning, and they’re wanting to burn things, like debris piles, and while it’s okay to do that, you need a burn permit to do that,” Ipsen said. “What’s great about these burn permits is they are very descriptive of safety measures to take when you’re doing debris piles. It’s also burn barrels, it’s basically anything that’s larger than ten by ten.”

There are a few specific precautions you can take to reduce the fire danger around your home and property when burning dead grass and debris.

“Don’t burn during times that there’s high winds, and there, you can go online and check the forestry website, and it will have whether there is a burn suspension in your area,” Ipsen said. “The biggest thing is: don’t leave your fire burning, don’t leave it unattended, make sure it’s out before you leave the area.”

For more information on fire safety and burn permits, you can visit the Alaska Division of Forestry website.

Independent producer Vikram Patel works full-time for the Municipality of Anchorage Parks and Recreation Department. In his free time, he volunteers for local storytelling program Arctic Entries and produces "New Arrivals," a profile series on KSKA about newcomers to Anchorage.

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