ANCHORAGE -

The Anchorage Fire Department says in the past three weeks, there have been 21 local structure fires -- including 13 resulting from people not properly disposing of their cigarettes.

According to AFD, careless disposal of cigarettes as well as kids playing with fire have led to a number of unnecessary calls. 

AFD Assistant Chief of Operations Graig Temple says the fires have collectively caused an estimated $1.5 million in damages.

"Discarding your cigarette or smoking materials is common sense for most people," Temple said.

In Temple's view, the issue others face on that count is complacency. 

"They believe that a small pail in their backyard filled with some sand is fine. But as other materials get close to that, or a fire starts in that object itself, it does spread to the residents -- that's what we've been seeing here recently," Temple said.

Temple says a good alternative to plastic bins or ashtrays is a metal container, like an empty coffee tin. He recommends filling it with water to help douse the cigarette butt.

Another issue AFD faces is kids lighting fires. Temple doesn't have a number for how many such fires the department has responded to, but says all have been put out quickly. 

Niki Pereira with Fire Stoppers, part of the Alaska Injury Prevention Center, says parents should talk with their kids about the dangers of playing with fire. 

"This year it's an extreme concern because of the dry conditions," Pereira said. "When kids use fire in conditions such as this, it may mean we have an elevated risk of creating a huge hazard for the community."

Pereira suggests parents with concerns contact the State Fire Marshal's office at 907-267-4936 or AIPC at 907-929-3939.