Anchorage fire officials warn of extreme danger amid high winds

Anchorage fire officials warned the public Sunday of “extreme” fire danger brought on by a treacherous combination of dry weather and high winds.

As firefighters battle a pair of wildland blazes threatening cabins and homes in the Willow area, the Anchorage Fire Department told city residents Sunday to be vigilant about anything that could spark fire.

Recent warm weather has “dropped the humidity and dried surface fuels into very high and extreme conditions,” the AFD said in an alert.

“It cannot be stressed enough that the extreme fire danger is still impacting the entire Municipality,” the statement said.

Even a carelessly discarded cigarette could ignite a blaze, the AFD warned.

The high winds causing havoc on an unseasonably warm August weekend started Saturday, barreling in to Southcentral Alaska Saturday. Fallen power lines are suspected to have sparked several wildfires in the Susitna Valley.

High winds knocked over power lines, causing outages and a brief brush fire at a Boy Scout camp in Eagle River. No one was hurt and no buildings were damaged.


The winds intensified Sunday. Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage recorded a wind gust of 51 mph Sunday, the highest in the area, according to National Weather Service data.

The wind is expected to stick around at least until Sunday evening, said Bob Clay, a NWS meteorologist in Anchorage.

“We’re expecting the wind to be up through evening, dropping after midnight most places,” Clay said.

Some of the AFD’s crews and apparatus, along with crews from Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson and volunteers from Chugiak are at the McKinley Fire, one wildfires burning near the Parks Highway in the Willow area.

“AFD has back-filled reserve apparatus with crews to maintain resources within (Anchorage),” the statement said.

As of Sunday, barbecues and enclosed pellet grills are allowed in Anchorage but outdoor fireplaces are not. No burning of yard debris is allowed.

Michelle Theriault Boots

Michelle Theriault Boots is a longtime reporter for the Anchorage Daily News. She focuses on in-depth stories about the intersection of public policy and Alaskans' lives. Before joining the ADN in 2012, she worked at daily newspapers up and down the West Coast and earned a master's degree from the University of Oregon.