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Mat-Su Borough warns of wildfire danger ahead of 4th of July holiday

(NBC15)
Published: Jul. 1, 2020 at 6:26 PM AKDT
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During a Wednesday morning press conference, leaders from the Matanuska Susitna Borough issued a reminder to the public that fireworks are banned throughout the borough, with the exception of private property - located within the city limits of Houston, Alaska.

This is subject to change in the event that the Alaska Division of Forestry issues a burn ban in that area.

Located along the Parks Highway, Gorilla Fireworks is open for business, despite the COVID-related cancellation of several public firework displays. The roadside stand is doing solid business this year, according to manager Jackie Johnson. She says most of their business is coming from smaller groups who are looking to hold their own private shows.

"There aren't as many city celebrations this year, but a lot of families are coming out," Johnson said. "We had the fires and did not open at all last year, so we're just really happy to be open at all this year."

Johnson says that Gorilla Firework also adjusts their inventory during the summer to avoid particular items which might be considered more of a fire hazard. For example, no bottle rockets are sold at the stands during the summer.

With last year's wildfire season is fresh on everyone's minds, the borough is encouraging all Mat-Su residents to skip the fireworks altogether this year.

"This weekend is going to be extremely warm," Emergency Services Director, Ken Barkley, said. "We are expecting 80 degrees out in the Mat-Su Borough and that's just the right mixture for the fires to spread of somebody does light fireworks off."

Alex Strawn, the borough's development services manager, says that fines will be issued for firework violations using a "progressive fine" system.

"It's not a wise time to be discharging fireworks," Strawn said. "We can fine people, and for every offense it costs more. There's also the chance that you can start a wildfire. It can get out of control very quickly and you will have a much larger problem on your hands."

The borough's rules for the Fourth of July differ from those enforced on New Year's Eve, as weather conditions typically pose less of a threat during that period of time.

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