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High fire danger warning issued today


August 11, 2005

Ketchikan, Alaska - "Word has just arrived from Stan McCoy, the Fire Management Officer with the Ketchikan-Misty Fiords Ranger District, that a high fire danger warning was issued today for the Ketchikan area because of the dry conditions and winds," said Dave Hull, Chief of the North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department.

jpg fire damage

A burn can easily get out of control as evidenced by the damage in this photograph. The North Tongass Volunteer Fire Department responded to this fire on June 4, 2005 during a period of rain. The firefighters were able to successfully extinguish the tree that was on fire and the brush fire. There was no damage to the home.
Photograph by Dick Kauffman

The relative humidity is very low and the conditions are predicted to continue through the weekend. Both Fire Chief Hull and Fire Chief Scott Davis of the South Tongass Volunteer Fire Department said all residents of the Ketchikan Gateway Borough should be informed of the danger and they are asking residents to not burn anything outdoors until weather conditions change.

Chief Hull said, "If a fire starts as a result of residents burning trash a major fire could develop quickly and be devastating to the area." He said small, well contained camp fires meant to cook food are okay as long as they are constantly monitored and put completely out before leaving the area. He stressed, "Please be careful with cigarette butts as well. They are a major source of fires when improperly disposed of."

Hull said, "Your local fire departments stand ready to respond to any emergency, but the best way to fight the destructive nature of a wildfire, or any fire for that matter is to prevent it from starting in the first place."

An update will be issued by the Fire Chiefs when conditions change. Chief Hull said.

When issuing the high fire warning today for the Ketchikan area, the U.S. Forest Service and the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources, Division of Forestry reminded people to put campfires dead out when leaving a developed recreation area.

Forest Service officials remind people that use of fireworks and operation of motorized equipment without a working spark arrestor are prohibited on the Tongass National Forest.

The unusually warm, dry conditions have led to these measures, because any ignition, under these extreme conditions, could lead to a serious wildfire, even in the normally fire-resistant rainforest, said Forest Service offcials.

"High fire danger may be rare in southeast Alaska, but we're facing it again this summer. We're requiring timber operators to work only at night and in the early morning, when temperatures are cool and humidity is high," Tongass National Forest Deputy Supervisor Olleke Rappe-Daniels said. "Visitors to the forest also need to be exceptionally cautious everyone needs to remember Smokey Bear's warnings, and be extremely careful with fire."

Remember, campfires are not the only way wildfires are started, said Rappe-Daniels.

"People using chain saws and riding all-terrain vehicles should make sure they have a spark arrester, and that it is working properly," she said. "Even the catalytic converter in the exhaust system of a car or truck can cause a fire if it's parked in heavy, dry vegetation."

Forest Service officials said those responsible for wildfires may face both criminal and civil penalties. Fines may reach $5,000 per incident. Both the costs of putting the fire out and the value of resources destroyed may be collected under civil codes.




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