The Alaska Division of Forestry on Saturday suspended permitted burning in the Anchorage, Fairbanks and Mat-Su areas due to dry conditions, said statements from the agency.
Outdoor debris burning and the use of burn barrels is prohibited under the suspension, said Norm McDonald, Mat-Su area fire management officer for the Division of Forestry. People can have small campfires and cooking fires, McDonald said, but he advised them to use "extreme caution" and have water nearby.
A combination of dry conditions and gusty winds prompted the suspension in the Mat-Su and Anchorage this weekend, the division said, while in Fairbanks, dry conditions and high temperatures forecast for the area caused the restrictions.
"We just ask people to be really careful," McDonald said. "Anytime you get that dry grass and the wind, it doesn't take too much to get something going, where it can be a problem fire."
The suspensions went into effect at 10 a.m. Saturday. McDonald said the Anchorage and Mat-Su suspensions will likely last through the weekend and may continue into the beginning of the week if windy conditions persist. He asked anyone who had outdoor fires recently to double-check the burn area to ensure the fire was extinguished and that no heat rose from the ground.
For Fairbanks, the National Weather Service forecast that temperatures would reach as high as 65 degrees this weekend, with scattered showers possible early Monday evening. Winds were only forecast to reach about 5 mph. The burn suspension applies to Fairbanks and the Railbelt and Salcha areas, the Division of Forestry said.
National Weather Service meteorologist Michael Kutz said the forecast called for easterly winds to funnel down the Matanuska Valley this weekend, with wind speeds reaching 30 to 35 mph in the Palmer area. The Anchorage area is forecast to see lighter winds around 10 or 15 mph, he said.
"We're not in the middle of the shotgun blast but we're right on the periphery, so we'll still get winds," he said of Anchorage.
Kutz also advised people to use caution with outdoor flames this weekend.
"People definitely want to be careful with whatever flame source they might have outside, whether it be a cookout or a campfire," he said.
Due to the weather conditions, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough also issued an air quality advisory this weekend for the Butte and surrounding areas, including Palmer and Wasilla. The advisory said wind-blown dust from the Knik River bed could affect the areas and possibly lead to "unhealthy to hazardous air quality."
During times of high wind and dust, the borough encouraged people to avoid vigorous outdoor activity. It encouraged children, the elderly and people with heart or lung diseases to stay inside.