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Wildfire danger high from Anchorage to Fairbanks, and Alaska firefighting resources are stretched thin

PALMER -- Open burning is now prohibited in Anchorage amid high fire danger that’s also triggered burn suspensions in the Valley as significant fires burn on the Kenai Peninsula and near Fairbanks.

The municipality announced the ban on open fires Tuesday, meaning burn permits are no longer available for burning spruce bark beetle slash and yard debris can’t be burned and must instead be disposed of through curbside trash removal, at the landfill or transfer site.

Barbecue grills and enclosed pellet grills are allowed, as are portable outdoor fireplaces used according to manufacturer’s instructions, elevated a foot off the ground, and with a spark arrestor, chimney stack or screen over the top.

The state has also suspended burn permits throughout Mat-Su starting Tuesday morning due to high fire danger and multiple wildfires burning across Alaska that are limiting the availability of firefighters and equipment.

To the east, the fire danger level was raised to “very high” Tuesday over most of Chugach National Forest, including the eastern Kenai Peninsula, Prince William Sound and Copper River Delta.

Campfires were still allowed, but forestry officials cautioned campers to extinguish their fires completely and to build them either in established pits or rock-rings or on gravel or dirt.

As of Saturday morning, the Shovel Creek Fire three miles north of Murphy Dome near Fairbanks was estimated at 400 acres. By Monday, it was triggering warnings of potential evacuations. (Photo courtesy Alaska Division of Forestry)

Along with the state’s largest fire, the over 32,000-acre Swan Lake fire on the Kenai Peninsula, a fire near Fairbanks is prompting warnings for residents to be ready to evacuate.

The Shovel Creek Fire three miles north of Murphy Dome flared up Monday, according to an Alaska Division of Forestry update. At the recommendation of a state incident commander, the Fairbanks North Star Borough issued a “Level 1: Ready” evacuation notice for residents in the Martin, McCloud, Murphy and Lincoln subdivisions as well as Perfect Perch and the Chatanika River corridor.

A Level 1 evacuation status is not an evacuation order but a notice that residents should be ready for a potential evacuation, officials say.

A wind shift Monday afternoon pushed the 650-acre fire east and it jumped the 7 Mile Trail, which was being used as a containment line, according to the update. Air tankers and water-scooping aircraft dropped retardant and water on and around the fire to slow its spread.

Managers expected lower winds and temperatures overnight Monday and into Tuesday, leading to less fire activity.

Continued warm weather is leading to dry, fire-prone conditions, Alaska managers say.

The burn permit suspension in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough includes all debris burning, burn barrels and lawn burns, according to the state Division of Forestry. Burn suspensions do not include cooking or warming fires less than 3 feet in diameter, but forestry officials asked the public to use “extreme caution with campfires and never leave an unextinguished fire unattended.”

This suspension will remain in effect until conditions improve.

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