While officials have yet to say what caused the MLK Jr. wildfire, Anchorage Assembly members representing South Anchorage and Midtown held a news conference Wednesday morning to announce their ongoing work on policies that could help prevent fires in the municipality's green spaces in the future.

"With a changing climate that is causing dryer and warmer conditions than usual, it’s important that we tackle this issue," said Assembly Chair Felix Rivera. "We got lucky yesterday, but next time we may not." 

Rivera and Vice Chair Suzanne LaFrance said they're working to further define current codes giving the Anchorage Police and Fire Departments authority to seize fire-making materials that are being used in an unsafe manner — including fireworks, propane tanks and even grills. 

"These tools already exist in code, although not with fine detail," said LaFrance. 

Assembly member Meg Zaletel said she plans to introduce an ordinance this month that would keep people out of green spaces that are high fire danger areas within the municipality. 

"The ordinance will allow the fire chief to designate wildfire danger areas that would prohibit individuals from using those areas while the dangerous conditions persist," she said. 

Currently, campers get 10 days’ notice before camps are abated and personal belongings are removed. If the city acts before the 10-day period, the belongings must be stored.  

Under the proposed ordinance, the fire chief would have discretion to close the area immediately, or give people occupying the space a 72-hour notice, as a preventative measure where high fire danger exists, according to Zaletel. 

"The intent isn’t really to restrict trail use," she explained, "it would be kind of going off-trail into those areas of high fire danger." 

Zaletel said she was looking forward to hearing public testimony on the proposed ordinance later in the month. 

 

The ordinance was officially introduced at the Assembly meeting July 9. 

Editor's note: This story has been updated to include the proposed ordinance.

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