Fire Preparedness raised to Level 4 for Alaska
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Current weather conditions and lightning strikes over the past week have taken current and expected fire activity from a Preparedness Level 3 to 4 as of noon today, Wednesday, June 22.
The change to Preparedness Level 4 means more firefighting resources will be allocated to Alaska.
According to Alaska Fire Point of Information Officers (PIOS) the decision to go to Preparedness Level 4 is made when multiple areas are experiencing fires that require incident management teams. When setting the preparedness level, fire officials consider factors like the probability of new starts, the potential for extreme fire behavior, and the degree of difficulty involved in controlling or extinguishing fires based on the available resources, weather conditions, terrain and fuel types.
Preparedness Level 5 is the highest level identified in the Alaska Preparedness Plan.
In a statement posted by The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), fire activity across Northern Alaska continues to be very active, and with warm dry weather forecast for the southern half of the state, fire crews are anticipating the potential for new fires and rapid fire growth.
Sam Harrel with the Alaska Division of Forestry says many of the fires are in remote areas where fire crews are allowing nature to take its course. He says some fires are good for Alaska’s ecology, and the boreal forest relies on fire as part of its cycle of life.
“We have the ability to let fire progress naturally, we will but you know our priority is fire fighter and public safety and then the defense of property and then it would be the defense of resources,” said Harrel.
Harrel went on to say although fires are a part of life in Alaska’s wilderness, human caused fires can be prevented and urges the public to be careful and responsible in all outdoor activities this summer. “We really need to focus our attention on defending life and property from the lightning fires that are scattered across the state and not have to deal with an unfortunate escaped debris pile or somebody who was camping and walked away from their campfire, not ensuring that it was cold to the touch out. Those are just nuisances that take away from our resources and they are a totally preventable fire.”
According to the latest update on the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center’s situation report, this season to date, Alaska has had 322 fires that have burned over 1,000,000 acres. Currently there are 133 active fires with 19 of them staffed.
Two new recent fires include the lightning caused Clear Creek Fire that is located 10 miles northwest of Anderson on the east side of the Teklanika River. As of today, Wednesday, June 22, the fire is estimated to be 1,750 acres. Current smokejumper efforts are on protecting cabins along the Teklanika River that are closest to the fire.
On Monday, BLM Central Yukon Field Office evacuated and closed the Arctic Circle campground, near the Dalton Highway at milepost 115. The campground is closed until further notice. A lightening sparked fire was discovered a half a mile from the campground and is estimated to be 500 acres. There is only one road in and out of the campground and the closure is necessary to protect campers and provide firefighter safety.
If you encounter wildfire activity when traveling on Alaska roads this summer be sure to watch out for firefighters and their equipment along the roadway. Slow down before entering areas of thick smoke and drive with your headlights on. Be prepared for delays and possible pilot vehicle to escort you through a fire area.
The number to call to report a wildfire in Alaska is 1-800-237-3633 or you can call 911.
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