USA – An escaped lawn burn destroyed a storage shed in Homer on Sunday and there were three more grass fires reported in the Mat-Su Valley over the weekend, evidence that wildland fire season has officially arrived in Southcentral Alaska.
With the winter snowpack just about completely melted off and no precipitation to speak of this month, conditions are extremely dry in the region, increasing the likelihood of grass fires. The exposed, dry grass at this time of year is considered a “flashy” fuel that can ignite and spread quickly to nearby structures or the wildlands.
The fire in Homer, called the Bradley Fire, was reported to Kachemak Emergency Services at approximately 3:40 p.m. Saturday. The fire was located near Mile 7 of East End Road. A woman told Forestry staff she was burning off dead grass on her lawn when the wind picked up, carried the fire across her driveway into more grass and ignited a covered storage area.
Firefighters with KSEA were first on scene and knocked the fire down after it had burned approximately three-quarters of an acre. The fire was contained and controlled at 5:10 p.m. and Forestry staff planned to check on the fire today to look for any leftover hot spots.
In the Mat-Su Valley, meanwhile, State Forestry firefighters and prevention staff responded to three different grass fires within a two-hour time frame on Sunday. That was in addition to three grass fires last week in the Valley. The biggest of the three fires over the past weekend, the Sailor Fire, burned approximately 2 acres.
The Strand Fire on East Strand Avenue between Palmer and Wasilla was called in at 2:14 p.m. The small grass fire was smoldering and under control when Forestry staff arrived. The fire was started after a fire escaped a burn barrel and ignited nearby grass. Forestry staff issued a written warning to the homeowner for not abiding by the rules on the burn permit.
The Sailor Fire was called in at 3:08 p.m. and was the result of an escaped burn pit. The Central Mat-Su Fire Department responded and knocked the fire down by the time Forestry staff arrived on scene. The homeowner was issued a written warning for failing to adhere to conditions of a burn permit.
The Doc McKinley Fire was reported at 3:43 p.m. as a grass fire in the Butte area outside Palmer. The fire was started by an escaped burn barrell and firefighters from the Butte Volunteer Fire Department were able to snuff the fire after it had burned approximately one-half acre.
Burn permits with safe burning practices printed on them are required for any open debris burning, the use burn barrels or to burn off lawns on all state, municipal and private lands in Alaska from April 1 to August 31. Burn permits are free and are available at local state forestry offices, many local fire departments and can printed off online at https://forestry.alaska.gov/burn.