Alaska News

Very high fire danger prompts burn restrictions through much of Southcentral and Interior Alaska

Chester Creek Fire

High fire danger heading into an unusually hot, dry Fourth of July weekend prompted sweeping burn restrictions in Anchorage and much of Alaska.

Open fires were prohibited in Anchorage on Friday, a ban expected to remain in place at least through the weekend, according to the Anchorage Fire Department. Barbecue grills and enclosed pellet grills are allowed, according to a municipal notice. Campfires, burn pits, portable outdoor fireplaces and open fires on the ground are not allowed.

Officials on the Chugach National Forest, Kenai Fjords National Park, and Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Friday restricted open campfires to designated campgrounds or cabins and within enclosed metal fire grates or designated fire rings.

State fire officials also suspended uncontained fires and burn permits Friday through much of Southcentral and Interior Alaska as existing wildfires had created dangerous, smoky air conditions in Anchorage and other communities.

The emergency burn closure order, which went into effect late Friday, bans any activity that would require a state or local permit and uncontained cooking, warming or signaling fires, according to the state Division of Forestry. Cooking or warming fires are allowed if they are contained in a steel ring or device like a charcoal grill.

[Fireworks use suspended across much of Alaska, including Mat-Su, as fire danger remains high]

The order will remain in place until it is rescinded by the state forester. It includes the Kenai Peninsula, Matanuska-Susitna, Denali and Fairbanks North Star boroughs, as well as the Copper River Basin, Delta Junction, Tok and surrounding areas.

Denali National Park and Preserve banned fires late Thursday.

This year, Alaska has experienced extended hot, dry weather, which contributed to a rash of fast-growing wildfires. Several Interior Alaska fires have prompted evacuations as the flames crept toward cabins and homes this week.

The dangerous conditions are expected to continue through the weekend and red flag warnings and air quality advisories exist in several areas of the state where conditions worsened as gusty winds were expected to move in. In Interior and portions of Western Alaska, dense smoke caused unhealthy air conditions and even hampered visibility so much that it made driving dangerous.

Alaska State Troopers temporarily stopped traffic on the Dalton Highway on Friday afternoon between Mile 141 and 148 because there was an active fire along the roadway. The lightning-sparked Douglas Fire had grown to more than 12,000 acres that morning.

Officials on Thursday suspended the use of fireworks through much of the state in an effort to prevent human-caused fires from popping up over the holiday weekend. Gorilla Fireworks in Houston, the only place in the region where pyrotechnics are legally sold, will remain closed through the weekend.

In total, 370 wildfires have devoured more than 1.8 million acres already this season. About half of the fires were started by people.

Tess Williams

Tess Williams is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, focusing on breaking news. Before joining the ADN in 2019, she was a reporter for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota and previously helped cover the Nebraska Legislature for The Associated Press. Contact her at twilliams@adn.com.

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