Anchorage

Violating Anchorage’s burn ban is now a misdemeanor crime under a new emergency law

In response to extreme fire danger in Anchorage, the Assembly has passed an emergency ordinance that makes violating the current citywide burn ban a misdemeanor crime, which carries stronger consequences than the usual civil penalty for violations.

The ordinance will remain in effect for 60 days. City officials say it is intended to help deter illegal burning and better prevent destructive residential and wildland fires in Anchorage.

Assembly members passed the emergency ordinance on Tuesday in a unanimous vote, following a request from Mayor Dave Bronson’s administration and Assembly Vice Chair Chris Constant.

Anchorage Fire Chief Doug Schrage instituted a municipalitywide burn ban last week. The ban came after the National Weather Service issued a “red flag warning” on Friday, cautioning that hot and windy weather across much of Southcentral Alaska last weekend could fuel the rapid ignition and spread of fires.

In Anchorage, warm weather is expected to persist during the coming Memorial Day Weekend.

The Weather Service on Wednesday issued a fire weather watch from Friday morning through Saturday evening for hot, dry and windy conditions in the Anchorage area that could make rapid ignition, growth and spread of fires possible. The forecast includes winds gusting as high as 15 mph, daytime highs in the low to mid-70s and relative humidity from 15 to 25%.

[Woman rescued from burning Hillside home before flames ignited wildfire]

“As we go into this weekend, we’re predicting temperatures reaching 70, which will only compound that situation, and if wind kicks up we could be seeing a very critical situation for life and safety within the municipality,” Municipal Manager Amy Demboski said.

Open burning is currently prohibited within Anchorage, including all open fires such as backyard fire pits and recreational fires, though charcoal, propane, and pellet-fired barbecues are exempted.

The emergency law makes violating the open burning ban a class A misdemeanor crime anytime a burn ban is in effect.

Class A misdemeanors can carry a sentence of up to one year in jail and up to a $10,000 fine, according to city code.

The Assembly is slated to consider passing similar legislation next month that would make the heightened consequences for burn ban violations a permanent part of city code.

The Anchorage Fire Department has so far responded to more than 40 illegal burns, including several that led to wildland fires that were later extinguished, Demboski said.

A fire that destroyed an Anchorage Hillside home on Sunday night quickly spread to nearby dried brush and woods, igniting a small wildfire that prompted response from numerous agencies, and firefighters rescued a woman from the deck of the burning home. Fire officials have said they don’t believe that the fire was caused by illegal outdoor burning and that it may have been related to a barbecue, and that the investigation is ongoing.

State fire officials have said fire danger is unusually high in Anchorage compared to typical conditions during May.

Emily Goodykoontz

Emily Goodykoontz is a reporter covering Anchorage local government and general assignments. She previously covered breaking news at The Oregonian in Portland before joining ADN in 2020. She earned her degree in journalism from the University of Oregon. Contact her at egoodykoontz@adn.com.

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