A large portion of Southcentral Alaska — including Anchorage as well as Palmer and the Knik River valley in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough — were under a “red flag warning” through Sunday night, reflecting warm, dry and windy conditions that could fuel the rapid ignition and spread of fires.
The red flag warning, from 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. Sunday, extended through the Copper River Basin and north of the eastern Alaska Range, according to the National Weather Service.
Besides high temperatures and dry conditions already present around Anchorage, gusty winds were expected to develop Sunday afternoon and evening. The combination of three factors “creates an environment that has high fire danger, so things will burn easily,” said Shaun Baines, a meteorologist with the Weather Service.
The winds will die down during the overnight hours, and the area will see an increase in cloud cover and lower temperatures on Monday and Tuesday, Baines said.
As of Sunday evening, 11 new wildfires were reported statewide between Saturday and Sunday — three of them in Anchorage and Mat-Su areas.
“That’s kind of a normal amount for this time of year,” said Sam Harrel, a spokesman with the Alaska Division of Forestry and Fire Protection. “A lot of those are very small.”
Earlier on Saturday, multiple agencies responded to a rapidly spreading wildfire in the area outside Sutton, bringing it under control by early Saturday evening. The human-caused fire, which started on private land near All Elks Road, posed no threat to structures and left no open flames by 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, according to Kale Casey, a spokesman with the Alaska Division of Forestry.
The All Elks Road fire “was limited to approximately 5 acres yesterday afternoon with mop up continuing today,” the agency officials said in a Sunday report. “We intend to have the fire controlled by the end of shift and are monitoring the Red Flag conditions.”
In the Municipality of Anchorage, a burn ban was instituted Friday until further notice by Anchorage Fire Department, prohibiting all open burning, including backyard and recreational fires. A burn suspension also went into effect Saturday in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, issued by the Division of Forestry. The suspension prohibits all burning — including barrels, debris piles or lawn — except for campfires 3 feet wide or smaller, and only with necessary precautions.