All state burn permits — both large and small scale — will be suspended May 1, to conserve state resources for combating the coronavirus pandemic.
The Alaska Division of Forestry announced in a Tuesday 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.
“Given the potential effects of COVID-19 on the upcoming fire season, Alaska’s wildland fire suppression agencies need the public’s help more than ever to keep firefighters and communities safe,” the release said. “Alaskans must do everything possible to prevent wildland fires, limit the spread of COVID-19, and protect firefighters and the public.”
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.