Denali ignites first burn pile of the season
Snow is still falling in Alaska, but things are heating up in Denali National Park and Preserve. During the week of March 14, 2018, the weather conditions were optimal to allow fire management staff at Denali to burn one of the largest debris piles ever created within the park from trees and brush cleared from the Front Country for fuels reduction. When areas within the park are treated for fuels reduction brush is cleared and trees are limbed from five to six feet up from the ground. That brush and debris is then piled with lighter fuels on the inside and heavier fuels on the outside of the pile to allow fire management staff an easier ignition under wet or snowy conditions. This particular pile consists of brush and limbs from a five acre treatment area, roughly 4.5 football fields, which has been centralized and condensed. The pile was located in the Front Country of Denali National Park and Preserve.
Snowpack and low visitor use at this time of year make it an optimal time to burn. The NPS fire crew, with 15 years of combined experience, took advantage of the excellent conditions to reduce the pile by 90 percent or more. The fire was continually monitored until extinguished. The last sign of smoke was seen on Tuesday, March 20 and the fire was called, "out" on Friday, March 23.
With a pile this size a good amount of heat is generated, but not enough to remove all risks from the colder weather. Fire staff looked out for icy conditions, hypothermia and other cold weather related risks. in addition to the usual hazards prescribed fires produce, like smoke. Safety is always the number one priority.
This is just one of many successful planned and implemented fuel reduction projects at Denali. Fuel reduction projects help maintain natural, ecological processes of our boreal forests, and reduce the risks from wildfires in the park.