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Anchorage residents wake up to smoke

By Lauren Maxwell Photojournalist: Nick Swann - 11:11 AM May 21, 2014

As wildfires continue to burn through thousands of acres in Southcentral Alaska, smoke over the Anchorage Bowl is prompting warnings from state health officials and local police.

According to the Department of Environmental Conservation, dense smoke from a 1,500-acre fire near Tyonek is causing unhealthy air conditions along the Anchorage hillside. The department recommends people with breathing or heart problems — as well as children and the elderly — should avoid prolonged exertion.

The area was thick with smoke Wednesday morning. Northerly winds may bring some relief on Thursday, but officials say residents can expect to see some smoke in the Anchorage Bowl for several days.

In an Anchorage news conference, Fire Chief John Fullenwider asked the public to respect the burn ban in effect. If Anchorage had a wildfire right now, he said, it would be difficult to find the resources to fight it.

“We just don’t need another fire,” Fullenwider said. “All the resources are committed, as you can imagine. Tankers, helicopters, crews, everything that Alaska owns is working on these major fires.”

Fullenwider said the burn ban means no fires at all, except for barbecue grills and fish smokers.

Outside Anchorage, state health officials said the wildfires near Tyonek and Soldotna are also causing smoky, unhealthy conditions on the Kenai Peninsula. The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District said all activities and recesses will be held indoors Wednesday.

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