A map shows active fires around the state of Alaska on Friday, July 1, 2022. (Screenshot from Alaska Wildland Fire Information Map)

Fire danger prompts restrictions on burning, fireworks

There were 160 fires in Alaska as of Thursday, and of those 17 were staffed with fire personnel

Increased fire danger across much of Alaska caused by warmer weather and limited precipitation have prompted restrictions across the state.

The state has instituted an immediate firework suspension across much of Alaska ahead of the holiday weekend, according to a Thursday advisory from the Department of Public Safety.

The suspension is in effect until further notice in the Kenai Peninsula Borough, as well as the Matanuska-Susitna, Denali and Fairbanks boroughs, and the Delta Junction, Tok, upper Tanana Valley, and Copper River Basin areas.

There were 160 fires in Alaska as of Thursday, and of those 17 were staffed with fire personnel, the Department of Public Safety reported. More than 1.6 million acres have already burned this season, the department said.

“The weather forecast over much of the state for this holiday weekend will keep fire danger high,” State Fire Marshal Richard Boothby said in the advisory. “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. We want everyone to have a safe holiday weekend.”

Wildfire responders are at preparedness level 5, the release said, which is the highest level in the Alaska Preparedness Plan. Level 5 also often indicates that most initial and extended resources are already assigned to existing and new fires.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation Division of Air Quality also issued an air quality advisory for the whole Southcentral region Tuesday, due to smoke produced by wildfires west of Mount Iliamna. The central peninsula was hazy Tuesday and smokey Wednesday, but otherwise less affected than other places in Southcentral. That air quality advisory expired at 2 p.m. Friday.

Burn orders

Citing ongoing dry conditions, the Alaska Department of Natural Resources announced Wednesday an emergency burn closure order. The order, which went into effect on Friday night at 11:59 p.m., affects the Kenai Peninsula Borough, the Mat-Su Borough, the Denali Borough, the Fairbanks North Star Borough, the cities of Delta Junction and Tok and the Copper River basin.

“Our state is experiencing ongoing dry conditions, which are predicted to continue,” a department release said. “These conditions have led to numerous large, uncontained wildfires in Alaska.”

The order restricts all burning that requires a permit, such as uncontained cooking and warming or signaling fires. Burning in burn barrels, burning debris piles and lawn burning are among the activities prohibited under the order. Cooking fires contained in a steel ring are allowed.

The Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Friday restricted all campfires in response to the high fire danger. Effective immediately, open campfires are restricted to designated campgrounds or cabins with enclosed metal grates or designated fire rings provided at developed recreational facilities, the refuge said. The use of cooking stoves and gas grills is allowed.

Reach reporters Camille Botello and Ashlyn O’Hara at camille.botello@peninsulaclarion.com and ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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