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Fire Wire: Prescribed burns used to prevent fires, train firefighters in Alaska

Updated: May. 14, 2021 at 5:20 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Wildland firefighters in Fairbanks are conducting prescribed burns at Creamers Field today. They are burning six fields to reduce fuel load in the area and lower the risk of lightening or a cigarette butt causing a wildfire near town. Two crews of firefighters spend most of Friday on the job, burning a total of six fields.

“It’s all dead, it’s all ready to burn, so we burn it off so that if a lightening strike or a cigarette butt or somebody comes along it’s controlled and doesn’t get out of hand and burn all the woods around it,” said Tony Peterson, a wildland fire resource technician and fire boss trainee.

Peterson recently completed his fire boss training and said the prescribed burn gives him a chance to practice what he learned.

“We got a bunch of trainees out here learning how to do different burn patterns, what works what doesn’t,” he said.

The firefighters burned black lines into the grass to establish a perimeter around the field they wanted to burn, then using a drip torch burned out the fields in sections. Drip torches use a mix of gasoline and diesel to lay fire onto the dead dry grass and cause it to burn in a controlled environment.

After they burn each section, “Next step is to monitor, make sure all the smokes go out,” Peterson said. “We will leave a couple people here to keep an eye on it and we will head over to the next field. Keep burning.”

The burning was scheduled to take most of Friday but Peterson said they may have to stop if the weather becomes unfavorable.

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