ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Update 9:15 p.m.:
The Anchorage Assembly unanimously passed a new law effectively banning the sale of illegally burned metallic wire at its regular meeting Tuesday. Members say this will reduce fire hazards in the city and protect the health of local firefighters.
Anchorage Fire Department Fire Marshall Cleo Hill says they've responded to over 13 fires this year that were caused by the burning of metallic wire.
"And each one of those, of course, starts your grass fire," Hill said. "In these weather conditions, it could take off and go."
Effective immediately, distributors will have to prove wire was legally burned before selling it to a scrap metal dealer.
The catch is, the only way to legally burn metallic wire to contain the toxic byproducts is with a special incineration device, and currently there are none in operation in the city.
It is still legal to manually strip insulation off of wiring and sell it.
The Anchorage Assembly wants to reduce fire hazards in the municipality as fires continue to ravage Alaska. One way to do that is by prohibiting the purchasing of illegally burned metal wiring.
Assembly member Christopher Constant says it’s a common criminal practice in Anchorage to steal insulated wiring and burn large piles in wooded areas that are then sold to scrap metal dealers.
The legislation Constant is introducing at Tuesday’s assembly meeting would only allow scrap metal dealers to purchase burned metal wiring if they submit to police written documentation of a legal purchase. He says wiring burned in demolition projects or structure fires are examples of legal burning.
“It will be a code compliance issue. There will be fines issued if we know that they've done it (illegally),” Constant said. “We're hoping they (scrap metal dealers) will participate with us in protecting public safety, and ensuring our community doesn't burn to the ground because some nefarious characters want to make a buck."
The main goal of the legislation is to deter thieves from illegal burning by taking away the market for them to sell.
"This issue is a criminal issue. Period. Full stop,” Constant said. “What I've proposed is to make it so the buyers can't buy it, which is going to put a damper down on that marketplace. Which, with the fire hazards as they are right now, couldn't be more timely."
This type of burning is not only a fire hazard, it creates toxic gases that Anchorage police and fire responders breathe when they have to put out the flames. Constant submitted written support of the ordinance from the Anchorage Fire Department.
Channel 2 spoke with Alaska Scrap and Recycling Tuesday. They say the ordinance is excessive, as they already submit to police documentation of legal purchases.
Failure to prohibit sales of illegally burned metallic wire would carry a $500 fine.
Constant says the assembly has committee meetings planned to consider more legislation aimed directly at reducing fire hazards in Anchorage’s greenbelt.
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