All burning banned across most of Southcentral, Interior Alaska

Areas closed to campfires and all other burning on July 9, 2019. (From Alaska Dept. of Natural Resources)

ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - No campfires are allowed on private, state or city lands in Southcentral and Interior lands starting Tuesday, according to state forestry and park officials.

Joint orders from the Division of Forestry and Division of Parks and Outdoor Recreation were issued Tuesday as thousands of firefighters battle fires in Southcentral Alaska.

“Conditions are almost perfect for the smallest spark to quickly become a large, dangerous wildfire,” said Chris Maisch, director of Forestry, in a release. “There are hundreds of people putting their lives on the line dealing with the fires we have, and we simply can’t risk creating more.”

The order prohibits all campfires, even in established fire pits or rings in state campgrounds. Cooking, warming, or signaling fires are not allowed under the order. It does not, however, prohibit charcoal grills, gas grills and backpacking or camp stoves that use fuel or compressed canisters.

All burn permits are suspended for the time being in Division of Forestry protection areas, the release says. The burn suspension will stay in place until fire conditions improve, the state said.

The ban covers the Municipality of Anchorage, Mat-Su Borough, Fairbanks North-Star Borough, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Denali Borough, the area of Glennallen to Valdez, and the Tanana Valley, including Delta, Nenana, Northway, Tanacross, Tok and surrounding communities.

In addition to the large-scale burning ban, the National Weather Service has issued a Red Flag Warning for the Copper River basin area from 2 p.m. Wednesday until 10 p.m. Thursday. That warning is based on the probability of lightning from expected thunderstorms Wednesday and Thursday.

The National Weather Service says Wednesday thunderstorms will likely be concentrated in higher terrain, but Thursday it will be more widespread across the entire basin. The level 3 or 4 probability of lightning, combined with low relative humidity around 37 percent and temperatures in the 70s will contribute to the Red Flag warning, and could lead to numerous new fire starts.

As of Tuesday, there are 117 active wildfires in Alaska, the division says. Twenty-four of the fires are staffed with more than 2,000 firefighters – mostly from the Lower 48. More than 1 million acres have burned in Alaska so far, from 392 wildfires.

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