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Fire escapes burn barrel, destroys home near Copper Center

Responders took aerial and ground photos of a 2-acre fire that originated in an unattended burn barrel on Tuesday, destroying a home near Mile 102 of the Old Richardson Highway. (From Alaska Division of Forestry)

A 2-acre fire that originated in a burn barrel in the Copper Center area Tuesday destroyed a home and another structure on the property, officials said.

The fire near Mile 102 of the Old Richardson Highway was reported just before 1:45 p.m. Tuesday, Alaska Division of Forestry officials wrote online. Wildland firefighters from the division were the first to arrive about 25 minutes later, followed by crews from GlennRich Fire Rescue, Kenny Lake and Gakona.

"By that time the grass fire was infringing on the structure and propane and fuel tanks around the home were exploding," Forestry officials wrote. "Forestry firefighters made sure the occupants were safely outside the home and focused on preventing the structure fire from spreading into the wildlands until local (volunteer fire departments) arrived on scene. The home was fully engulfed by the time structure firefighters arrived a few minutes later."

The fire's cause was tracked to an unattended burn barrel near the home. It wasn't initially clear whether the second destroyed structure was an outbuilding or another residence, Forestry officials wrote.

Trees and grass in the region haven't yet greened up, and a burn suspension was enacted for the Valdez and Copper River area after the fire.

"The burn suspension prohibits debris burning and the use of burn barrels until conditions moderate," Forestry officials wrote. "Small campfires are still allowed but fire managers advise against any burning given the dry conditions."

Wildland firefighters also responded to a 1-acre Sunday fire near Anchor Point on the Kenai Peninsula that destroyed an outbuilding and scorched the side of a cabin, according to the division's Facebook page. That fire, officials said, was ignited by "a hot chainsaw being set down in dry grass."

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