State officials issued a rare winter wildfire advisory for the Mat-Su area Thursday, cautioning against open burning at a time of sunny skies and dry conditions.
Warm weather in recent weeks has melted much of the snowpack in the area. From the north Knik River Bridge, open fields are exposed across Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge and in areas around Palmer and Wasilla.
"Attention residents -- the Mat-Su Valley is dry," begins a public service announcement released by the state Division of Forestry.
Cooler temperatures can lead to a freeze-dried effect in grassy fields, said Norm McDonald, a state fire management officer.
"We just want to be proactive and make people aware," McDonald said. "In the Valley, people do open burning in the winter."
Residents are asked to be extra-careful when it comes to burning debris or starting campfires. If the wind picks up, officials are asking people to holding off on burning at all.
The warning will be in place until the next time precipitation falls. Forecasters expect a combination of sunny skies and light winds in the Mat-Su over the next week.
"It sounds kind of crazy talking about it, but it's snow-free in February," McDonald said.
Reach Devin Kelly at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4314.
By DEVIN KELLY