Alaska forestry officials warn of dangerous fire conditions heading into holiday weekend

Wildfire flames flare high above a forest.
Flames from the Funny River Wildfire flare up on May 24, 2016 in Soldotna, Alaska. The wildfire started unusually early in the season and burned nearly 200,000 acres on the Kenai Peninsula. (Photo by Rashah McChesney/Peninsula Clarion)

Warm and dry weather heading into Memorial Day weekend has prompted warnings for Alaskans to be extra careful not to start wildfires.

A burn ban is in effect in Anchorage, prohibiting campfires, outdoor fire pits and other open burning, though barbecue grills, including those using charcoal, are still allowed.

Violating a city burn ban is now a misdemeanor crime, under an emergency ordinance the Anchorage Assembly passed Tuesday.

The state Division of Forestry has suspended burn permits for most of Southcentral Alaska, including the Matanuska and Susitna valleys and the Kenai Peninsula, as well as Fairbanks, Delta Junction and the Copper River Basin.

And the National Weather Service has issued Red Flag warnings for all of the central Interior and most of Southcentral and Southwest Alaska, from the Mat-Su, Anchorage and the Kenai, all the way to Dillingham and King Salmon.

Those areas are expected to see sunny skies and high temperatures in the 60s or 70s through the holiday weekend.

The Weather Service says “rapid ignition, growth and spread of fires will be possible.”

Forestry officials say, in areas where campfires are allowed, fires should be in a cleared area in a pit surrounded by mineral soil. Also, the fires should be kept small and manageable and should never be left unattended. And campfires should be fully extinguished using plenty of water and stirring.

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Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly, a general assignment reporter and an editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at Read more about Casey here

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