Tinderbox conditions in Alaska forests and a forecast of more hot weather led the state fire marshal to ban fireworks in most populated areas in the run-up to the Fourth of July.
State Fire Marshal Richard Boothby on Thursday used administrative powers to suspend until further notice the sale and use of fireworks around Fairbanks, Juneau and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, which surrounds the cities of Wasilla and Palmer.
“I’m greatly concerned with the heightened fire danger,” Boothby said in an announcement. “Our firefighting resources and capabilities on the ground and in the air are stretched thin.”
Fireworks are banned by ordinance in the state’s largest city, Anchorage.
The fire marshal’s ban also covers the Kenai Peninsula and Kodiak boroughs, the Copper River Valley from Glennallen south to Valdez, western Alaska from McGrath to the coast, the Tanana Valley north of the Alaska Range, and the northern Panhandle, including Haines, Skagway and Juneau.
The state forester asked for the suspension.
Temperatures in the high 70s were forecast Friday for Anchorage and the high 80s for Fairbanks.
The Alaska Interagency Coordination Center on Friday morning reported 120 active wildfires in the state.
A fire in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on the Kenai Peninsula grew to nearly 88 square miles (228 sq. kilometers), up from 75 square miles (194 sq. kilometers), and continued to send smoke north into Anchorage.
The Anchorage Health Department issued an Air Quality Health Advisory through the weekend, noting that the municipality had reached concentrations of ultra-fine particles that are considered unhealthy for sensitive groups.
Anchorage is bordered on the east by the Chugach Mountains and neighborhoods in the foothills are susceptible to wildfires started by fireworks. Police spokesman MJ Thim said officers were aware of the hazardous situation.
“We will be working closely with our partners at the Anchorage Fire Department to diligently enforce the fireworks ban,” he said in an email response to questions.
Smoke also continues to pour into Fairbanks from nearby fires.
A spokeswoman for Denali National Park said a satellite had detected the park’s first wildfire of 2019. Jennifer Johnston said the lightning fire had burned less than 0.5 square miles (1.3 sq. kilometers) in the park’s remote northwestern region, which sees multiple fires each summer.
This story has been updated.
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