ANCHORAGE -

While most people are planting trees and shrubs in spring, Eagle River resident Todd McGraw has been removing them -- creating about 15 feet of "defensible space" around his home by clearing away brush that can fuel wildfires.

"I'm not really worried about it because I know that we've done the best we can to keep the trees and the dryness away from our houses,” McGraw said. “With only two years of living up here, I haven't followed the fires as well as I should be."

The Anchorage Fire Department recommends that everyone follow McGraw's lead by keeping their yards clear of firewood and laying down gravel to fortify a buffer between woods and homes.

AFD is also helping by thinning out a wooded area in the Driftwood Bay neighborhood of Eagle River.

"Fires can make an upslope run, and make an aggressive run at homes, torching trees, which would end up showering embers on these homes,” said forester John See.

Open campfires are banned in all state and municipal parks.

Officials have blamed an unpermitted campfire for sparking a 20-acre blaze in the Mat-Su Valley late Wednesday night.

Residents and fire officials continue to be on high alert, including McGraw, an Air Force officer stationed at JBER.

"Alaska is going to be my home, as my wife and I are retiring, so we're we'll be planting roots right here,” McGraw said.

AFD crews can inspect homes to see if there is enough defensible space. If that’s the case, residents may be eligible for partial reimbursement of their household fireproofing costs.