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AFS, Army conduct prescribed burns on military training areas

Brian Pitts / Alaska Fire Service
The prescribed burn begun over the weekend has already blackened much of the land within the 50,000-acre Oklahoma Impact Area, located about 25 miles southwest of Delta Junction.

The federal Alaska Fire Service and U.S. Army Alaska set fires in a big military training range near Fort Greely over the weekend. And they’ll probably ignite a few more blazes in training areas around Fairbanks over the next couple of weeks to reduce the amount of grass and other vegetation that could fuel bigger and more destructive wildfires.

Alaska Fire Service
The Alaska Fire Service last weekend began igniting prescribed fires in the Oklahoma Range, located west of the Delta River about 25 miles southwest of Delta Junction. It's one of several training ranges around Fort Greely.

The Alaska Fire Service conducted some prescribed burning earlier this month in areas around Fort Greely, mainly the Donnelly Training Area just south of the installation. And last weekend the fire service and U.S. Army Alaska torched portions of the 50,000-acre Oklahoma Impact Area farther to the west, near the Delta River.

“It’s pretty remote -- about 25 miles southwest of Delta Junction,” AFS spokesperson Beth Ipsen said, adding that the fire service will monitor the burn until it’s out.

Ipsen says the burn is part of an annual program that the agency conducts early in the season to reduce vegetation that can feed a fire sparked by training from growing into big and hard-to-control inferno. And she says the agency is about to begin more prescribed burning on military lands near Fairbanks.

Alaska Fire Service
The Alaska Fire Service will likely be conducting more prescribed burns over the next couple of weeks in the Yukon Training Area, east of Eielson Air Force Base.

“We haven’t done much burning closer to Fairbanks,” she said in an interview Monday. “They did a little bit just south of the Richardson Highway last week, because some training was going on and it ignited a little fire.”

Ipsen says the fire was quickly extinguished. But she says Army officials decided if it’s that flammable they should conduct a prescribed burn on the range.

“And so they did some burning on the machine-gun range and the small arms complex … in between Fairbanks and North Pole,” she said.

Ipsen says the fire service typically conducts prescribed burning every May, after the snow melts and the vegetation dries enough to burn off. She says that usually wraps up by the end of the month, but she says this year the burning may continue into June.

“We had a lot of snowpack,” she said, “so it did push the fire season a little late -- in the Interior, anyway.”

But elsewhere around the state, especially in southcentral and on the Kenai, the new fire season is already keeping crews busy. And it likely won’t be long before it gets that way here in the Interior, as well.