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Rain lets Anchorage fire officials lift burn ban

The Anchorage Fire Department has rescinded a citywide burn ban after light overnight rain, allowing portable fireplaces and campfires in recreational areas for the first time in more than two weeks.

Dry, windy conditions prompted officials to issue the burn ban on May 13. Before lifting it, they had been waiting for precipitation to cover a broad stretch of the municipality. That came Thursday night, said AFD forester John See. The ban was lifted at 1 p.m. Friday.

"(The rain) gets us to a point where we can give the public some leeway to enjoy fires, especially in the campground and recreational facilities," See said.

Fire officials will be monitoring conditions and are prepared to put restrictions back in place if necessary, See added.

Open fires were still banned Friday, which was designated a "no-burn" day. Residents are asked to call the AFD burn hot line at 267-5020 or check http://afd.muni.org/ to see whether a specific day has been designated a "burn day."

On no-burn days, people cannot activate burn permits or build campfires on the ground. But unless a burn ban is in effect, fires in enclosed devices with a spark arrestor, such as a portable fireplace, are allowed, as long as they are at least 12 inches off the ground and at least 15 feet from combustible surfaces, officials said. The same goes for fires in permanent fire pits and grills at municipal recreation sites.

Covered gas, electric and charcoal barbecue grills and fish smokers are allowed even with burn bans in effect.

The Mat-Su Area State Forestry Office lifted a burn permit suspension for the Valley earlier this week. But a burn ban remains in effect on all state and federal lands on the Kenai Peninsula, where the Funny River fire grew just slightly overnight Friday to about 193,200 acres, with containment holding at 46 percent.

Winds gusted to 40 mph on the east and northeast sides of the fire, sparking unburned areas of vegetation within the containment lines, officials said in a Friday morning update on the Funny River fire.