Creamer's Field plowing

Mark Ross photo

Multiple prescribed burns to reduce the potential for wildfires might start at Creamer’s Field Migratory Waterfowl Refuge anytime between today and May 21.

“Given the current conditions of the fields it is unlikely that burning will start on Monday,” Tim Mowry, Division of Forestry public information officer, wrote in an email. “It will probably be the following week at the earliest that we will be able to conduct the prescribed burns.”

When the temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction allow, the Alaska Division of Forestry will work with the Department of Fish and Game to conduct burns at the refuge on College Road.

Firefighters will burn the dried grass on four separate fields to reduce the potential for wildfires later this summer.

“While the burns total only about 40 acres, they would help protect the entire 2,400-acre refuge, as well as areas adjacent to it, in the event a wildfire was to start in the fields during the summer,” Mowry wrote. “So it literally would be thousands of acres that it could protect.”

The burns will also serve as a training opportunity for the division’s wildland firefighters and will enhance habitat for waterfowl and other wildlife at the refuge.

“These prescribed burns are invaluable for the ecosystem,” Ryan Klimstra, a wildlife biologist with the Department of Fish and Game, said in a release announcing the planned burns. “Using fire as a management tool directly enhances soil quality and promotes native plant diversity while aiding in invasive weed elimination. Post-fire habitat conditions will benefit many species, ranging from microorganisms and insects all the way up to waterfowl and moose.”

The refuge, which provides a habitat for migratory birds and a space for public use, will stay open and signs will alert visitors about closed areas. Smoke might be visible throughout Fairbanks, but fire managers will work to minimize the smoke’s effects.

“We will be burning the fields off in small chunks to help minimize smoke impacts to the public and given that the grass will be dry when we ignite the burns, it should not put up a significant amount of smoke,” Mowry wrote. “Fire managers will also be monitoring wind conditions to help keep smoke out of residential areas. Any smoke impacts should be relatively short-lived, as the area to be burned is pretty small.”

Contact staff writer Alena Naiden at 459-7587. Follow her at twitter.com/FDNMlocal