Burn ban lifted — except on the Kenai

Ban will stay in effect on the peninsula due to recreational traffic associated with fishing season.

Rainfall across the state this weekend has prompted the Alaska Division of Forestry to rescind most of its statewide burn ban, except on the Kenai Peninsula, where the ban remains in effect.

Most residents of Alaska can now apply for burn permits for brush piles or burn barrels, according to a Tuesday press release from the Alaska Department of Natural Resources.

The state ban was lifted effective 10 a.m. on Tuesday.

The burn suspension will remain in effect on state, private and municipal lands on the Kenai Peninsula through June to reduce the risk and number of human-caused wildfires. The use of outdoor cooking equipment, such as grills, and small campfires are still allowed.

Norm McDonald, fire program manager for the state’s Wildland Fire and Aviation Program, said in the press release that a predicted increase in recreational traffic associated with salmon fishing season is the reason that the burn ban will remain in place on the peninsula.

“We’re not out of the woods yet,” McDonald said. “Warmer, drier weather is expected to develop over most of the state later this week and it won’t take long for fire danger to elevate, given how dry conditions were previously.”

The Division of Forestry implemented the burn ban on May 1 for most of the state, with the exception of Southeast Alaska. The ban was put into place due to fears from state wildland fire managers that they would not be able to rely on firefighting personnel from the Lower 48 due to travel restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Division of Forestry has since developed a plan in coordination with Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services for safely transporting firefighting personnel to Alaska should the need arise, according to the release.

The state was at high risk of wildfires for the first three weeks of May, which saw extremely dry conditions across Alaska. Over Memorial Day weekend, however, significant rainfall helped reduce that risk for much of the state.

The Division of Forestry is continuing to monitor conditions in certain areas, and will notify the public of any changes in burn policy.

Residents who wish to burn must call their local forestry office or check the burn permit website at www.dnr.alaska.gov/burn to make sure burning is allowed in their area on the day they want to burn. The website includes guidance of safe burning practices.

So far this season, personnel with the Division of Forestry have responded to 76 wildfires that have burned approximately 230 acres. This is a decrease from the previous year, where 85 fires had burned approximately 3,404 acres by this time.

“We at the Division of Forestry want to thank members of the public for being patient, and for following the rules suspending burn permits last month,” McDonald said. “Staying vigilant and following some common-sense fire safety rules will go a long way toward helping us all have a safer, healthier, and more enjoyable summer in Alaska’s outdoors.”

Reach Brian Mazurek at bmazurek@peninsulaclarion.com.