Alaska Division of Forestry                                A member of the Gannet Glacier Type 2 Initial Attack Crew uses a drip torch during a burnout operation at the Swan Lake Fire on June 18, 2019.

Alaska Division of Forestry A member of the Gannet Glacier Type 2 Initial Attack Crew uses a drip torch during a burnout operation at the Swan Lake Fire on June 18, 2019.

Burn permits suspended starting May 1

Last year, more than 5,000 firefighters were brought north to Alaska to combat wildfires.

All state burn permits — both large and small scale — are suspended as of Friday, May 1, to conserve state resources for combating the coronavirus pandemic.

The Alaska Division of Forestry announced in an April 7 press release that the suspension is in anticipation of the impacts of COVID-19 on Alaska’s wildland firefighting resources this summer.

Last summer, the state battled several large wildfires, including the Swan Lake Fire, which started after a series of lightning strikes ignited a portion of old spruce forest in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

The suspension will help firefighting agencies mitigate some of the significant challenges they’re likely to face this summer, the release said. This includes an anticipated lack of firefighting resources available from the Lower 48 as a result of COVID-19 travel restrictions and quarantine requirements.

In the last 20 years, human activity has caused more than 60% of Alaska’s wildfires, an April 27 press release from the Division of Forestry said. The release says most of the human caused fires are ignited by burn barrels and debris burning in the spring when dead grass and unpredictable winds increase fire danger.

In the past, Alaska has relied heavily on help from the Lower 48 to contain fires. Last year, more than 5,000 firefighters were brought north to Alaska to combat wildfires that burned more than 2.5 million acres. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the subsequent travel and quarantine mandates, firefighter availability could be reduced by 30%, the April 27 press release said.

“The reality is that we don’t know if we’re going to be able to bring resources up from the Lower 48,” State Forestry Fire Program Manager Norm McDonald said in the release. “We can’t count on it, so we have to take other steps and draw up contingency plans to protect our firefighting capabilities. We’re doing what we can to protect our crews and reduce the likely demands on them wherever possible.”

The suspension goe into effect May 1 across the state, except for in Southeast, where there is less risk for wildfire.

“Most of Southeast Alaska is composed of coastal rainforest where wildfires have a very difficult time starting and spreading, unlike the black spruce and boreal forests to the north,” Chris Maisch, director of the Division of Forestry, said in the April 27 forestry press release. “What few wildfires that do occur in Southeast are small and more easily managed by local fire departments.”

The use of burn barrels, the burning of debris piles and any other outdoor burning activity authorized under previously issued permits will be prohibited on all state, private and municipal lands throughout Alaska as of May 1.

Fires for cooking, warming or signaling that are less than 3 feet in diameter with flame lengths no more than 2-feet high are allowed. Commercially manufactured outdoor cooking and heating devices with built-in open flame safety devices are also not included in the suspension.

People or businesses violating the burn permit suspension may be issued a citation.

More in News

Raymond Bradbury preserves his salmon while dipnetting in the mouth of the Kenai River on Saturday, July 10, 2021. (Camille Botello / Peninsula Clarion)
Kenai River dipnetting closed; Kasilof to close Sunday

The Kasilof River dipnet fishery is reportedly slow, but fish are being caught

Silver salmon hang in the Seward Boat Harbor during the 2018 Seward Silver Salmon Derby. (Photo courtesy of Seward Chamber of Commerce)
Seward Silver Salmon derby runs Aug. 13-21

Last year’s derby featured 1,800 contestants competing across eight days

Rayna Reynolds tends to her cow at the 4-H Agriculture Expo in Soldotna, Alaska on Aug. 5, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Animals take the stage at 4-H expo

Contestants were judged on the quality of the animal or showmanship of the handler

Emily Matthews and Andy Kowalczyk pose outside the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies headquarters on Friday, July 29, 2022, in Homer, Alaska. (Photo by Charlie Menke/Homer News)
AmeriCorps volunteers aid Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies

The 10-month commitment pushed them outside of comfort zones

People gather in Ninilchik, Alaska, on Friday, Aug. 5, 2022, for Salmonfest, an annual event that raises awareness about salmon-related causes. (Camille Botello/Peninsula Clarion)
All about the salmon

Fish, love and music return to Ninilchik

Alaska State Veterinarian Dr. Bob Gerlach gives a presentation on Avian Influenza Virus at the 4-H Agriculture Expo in Soldotna, Alaska, on Aug. 5, 2022. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
State looks to outreach, education amid bird flu outbreak

Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza is spreading in Alaska

Fencing surrounds the 4th Avenue Theatre in Anchorage, Alaska, on Wednesday, Aug. 3, 2022. Demolition will begin in August 2022 on the once-opulent downtown Anchorage movie theater designed by the architect of Hollywood’s famed Pantages Theatre. The 4th Avenue Theatre with nearly 1,000 seats opened in 1947, and it withstood the second most powerful earthquake ever recorded. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen)
Efforts fail to save historic Anchorage theater from demolition

Anchorage entrepreneur Austin “Cap” Lathrop opened the 4th Avenue Theatre, with nearly 1,000 seats, on May 31, 1947

Mimi Israelah, center, cheers for Donald Trump inside the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage, Alaska, during a rally Saturday July 9, 2022. Two Anchorage police officers violated department policy during a traffic stop last month when Israelah, in town for a rally by former President Donald Trump showed a “white privilege card” instead of a driver’s license and was not ticketed. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News via AP, File)
Alaska officers violated policy in ‘white privilege’ stop

The top of the novelty card reads: “White Privilege Card Trumps Everything.”

Ashlyn O’Hara / Peninsula Clarion file 
Alaska LNG Project Manager Brad Chastain presents information about the project during a luncheon at the Kenai Chamber Commerce and Visitor Center on July 6.
Local leaders voice support for LNG project

Local municipalities are making their support for the Alaska LNG Project known

Most Read