The state has issued an emergency burn closure for much of Interior and Southcentral Alaska starting at 11:59 p.m. Friday due to ongoing dry and warm conditions headed into the July Fourth weekend.
“It’s extremely dry,” said Alaska Division of Forestry and Fire Protection spokesman Sam Harrel. There’s also lightning storms forecast for parts of the Interior.
The forestry division said its burn closure is meant to help prevent more human-caused fires from starting. Already, there’s a number of large wildfires burning in the state.
Areas covered by the burn ban include the Denali, Mat-Su, Kenai and Fairbanks North Star boroughs as well as the communities of Tok and Delta Junction and the surrounding Copper River Basin. The Municipality of Anchorage also has burn restrictions in place, including prohibiting open fires.
Harrel said the burn closure doesn’t mean all fires are banned. He said using a charcoal grill or starting a fire at a campground contained in a steel ring is still allowed.
“A circle of rocks is not acceptable,” he said. “Backcountry campfires are not permitted.”
Burning debris piles as well as uncontained cooking or signaling fires are also prohibited.
The state also suspended fireworks starting Thursday in the area of the state covered by the burn closure. The suspension is in place until further notice. State Fire Marshal Richard Boothby said the weather forecast for the holiday weekend will keep fire danger high.
“With much of the wildland firefighting personnel and assets already assigned to fires burning in the state, we can’t take any chances of more human-caused fires,” he said in a statement.
According to state emergency officials, there are about 160 fires burning in Alaska, with 17 of them staffed with firefighters.