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Wildfire danger on the rise in Southcentral

By Shannon Ballard Photojournalist: Emily Landeen - 5:35 PM May 16, 2017
PALMER –

Governor Bill Walker has proclaimed May 14 through 20 Wildfire Prevention and Preparedness week in Alaska.

It’s perfect timing, according to folks with the Division of Forestry, who say the chance of you starting a wildfire in Southcentral right now is on the rise.

“Today and tomorrow they are predicting the higher winds, and those gusty winds are the ones that can catch people off guard,” Mat-Su Fire Management officer Norm McDonald said.

McDonald says his crews have responded to a more than a dozen fires in the last couple weeks, including one in Palmer, which almost burned down a house when a charcoal grill was knocked over by the wind.

Source: Division of Forestry
Charcoal Grill starts grass fire in Palmer

The Division of Forestry also shared photos of a one-acre grass fire in Anchor Point on its Facebook Page. The fire started on Sunday when a hot chainsaw was set down in dry grass.

Source: Division of Forestry
1-acre grass fire in Anchor Point ignited from hot chainsaw

“With the human-caused fires, it can be just about anything you can think of and we’ll get a fire start from it,” McDonald said.

On Tuesday morning, fire danger in the valley was moderate, but as the winds pick up in the evening, McDonald said they’ll likely bump the fire danger level to high.

Dry grass and spruce trees are extremely volatile fuels, and McDonald says it’ll stay that way until things green up and we get some rain.

While some fires this year have started in more unusual ways, the Division of Forestry says oftentimes, human-caused wildfires were started by debris piles.

In fact, last year the state reports 90 of the 373 wildfires in Alaska were caused by debris burning.

While you need a burn permit, fire officials say you also need to follow proper burn guidelines.

Visit http://forestry.alaska.gov/burn for more information about safe burning practices in Alaska.

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