Alaska News

Red flag warning issued for wide swath of Southcentral Alaska heading into weekend

Willow Fire

The National Weather Service issued a “red flag warning” for a large portion of Southcentral Alaska for much of Saturday — including Anchorage and parts of the Mat-Su and the Kenai Peninsula — reflecting hot and windy weather that could fuel the rapid ignition and spread of fires.

The red flag warning extends as far north as Salcha, as far east as the Copper River Basin and as far south as Homer, and was slated to be in place until 10 p.m. Saturday.

Red flag warning fire danger map

In the Municipality of Anchorage, a burn ban was instituted Friday by Anchorage Fire Chief Doug Schrage, in accordance with the red flag warning. It prohibits all open burning in the Anchorage area, including backyard and recreational fires.

According to the announcement, the fire department will staff additional wildfire resources and send increased resources to initial calls about wildfires. Commercial charcoal, propane, and pellet fired barbecues are exempt from Anchorage’s burn ban, but the department urged people to use extreme caution when using them.

A burn suspension also goes into effect Saturday in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough due to warm, dry conditions.

The Alaska Division of Forestry announced the suspension Friday. It prohibits all burn permits and means that “absolutely” no burn barrels, debris piles or lawn burning is allowed, the agency said. Only small campfires, 3 feet wide or smaller, can be lit, but they must be in an area with adequate clearing around the fire, water nearby and someone watching the fire until it’s completely out.

“Due to the warm temperatures and quite dry conditions, much of the area has become highly susceptible to debris burns escaping and spreading from their intended area,” the agency warned.

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The forecast calls for cooler conditions and more humidity Sunday, but the Susitna Valley will remain drier than surrounding areas, fire officials say.

They also encouraged people who burned outdoors to check the ashes “as any abandoned heat sources have an increased likelihood of igniting accidental wildfires.”

Warming temperatures and dry grasses and other ground cover have already spawned a series of fires around Southcentral, many of them caused by errant debris piles, fire officials say.

State and local crews controlled a 15-acre fire near Homer that threatened several homes earlier this week. There were six fires that started on Thursday alone, including several in Fairbanks and Mat-Su.

Numerous new starts this week were linked to escaped burn piles, including one in Willow on Tuesday that spread to a camper trailer and other items but was contained before extending to a nearby home, according to state fire information officer Kale Casey.

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