Off-season wildfires have Valley firefighters on edge

More than a dozen brush fires have hit the Matanuska Valley in the past week, and most were quickly extinguished. But borough and state firefighters are beefing up local resources until the risk from what's being called an unprecedented winter fire season has passed, reports the Mat-Su Valley Frontiersman. The first wind-whipped fire, on Friday, caused evacuations and threatened to burn a handful of homes.

A strange mixture of no snow, dead grass and high winds has combined to create an unprecedented wintertime fire season that has had state and local fire crews hopping. They’re busier than they were during the actual fire season. And now they’re fighting fires in intense winds and intense cold.

“(Alaska Division of) Forestry has apparently brought 10 hot shots down from Fairbanks to help them through this red flag warning period,” Brodigan said, referring to the burn ban now in place.

Forestry fire management officer Norm McDonald said Saturday that forestry has had to staff back up after its summer staff down for the first time anybody can really remember.

The cold is also causing problems with firefighting equipment, and there's even a shortage of cold-weather clothing for firefighters, reports The Frontiersman.