Local News

Dry weather increases fire danger on the Tongass

The U.S. Forest Service is asking people to be careful with camp fires as hot, dry weather blankets the Tongass National Forest this summer.

Seth Ross, acting fire management officer on the Tongass, said fire danger has been high for central and southern parts of the forest. “Down in the Kake area its been very dry down there and then some of the fire danger ratings, we use that term, are very high at this point in clear-cut fuel models. We measure a few different types of fuel models out there and then one that reflects the clear-cut activity is showing very high. And then across the boards on the south end of the forest especially are showing very high and a high fire danger.”

Ross said it’s a little different story on the northern end of the forest where fire danger has been moderate. However, he expects this week’s sunny skies should put the entire forest at high fire danger levels. So far, about 15 fires have been reported on the Tongass this year, including five or six this week. Typically the Tongass totals about 20 or 25 fires a year during the warmer, drier months.

Ross said two fires were active on Wednesday, one near Sitka by Sitkoh Lake and another south of Kake. “The one down by Kake may be a little bit bigger than we’re usually experiencing here,” Ross said. It may have been kindof there and the hot weather has gotten it and it usually digs down deep and sometimes it doesn’t look as large as it is when you get there. That one may be a little bit larger than usual. And usually we’re less than a quarter acre for our fires here but that one may be pushing just about that threshold.”

As of Wednesday, the forest had not implemented any restrictions for people camping in the forest or companies logging and doing other work. That could change by Thursday, August 1 with restrictions for industrial work possible if the dry weather persists.

“I’m mostly advising people to you know please enjoy the beautiful woods that we have but you know if they are gonna have campfires just to please be careful with that and just be careful with fire in general. You know until we see the weather change, which I understand may be this weekend,” Ross said.

Campers are asked not to leave fires unattended and should extinguish coals completely.

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