The wildfire risk was listed as high in the southern part of the Tongass this week. The U.S. Forest Service is asking people to exercise caution when building campfires or lighting fireworks. (Photo via Piqsels)

It’s been a warm, dry last few weeks, and the U.S. Forest Service is reminding people to be safe over the holiday. The wildfire risk in the central part of the forest around Petersburg is currently listed as moderate. That means no restrictions for use of the forest lands. 

But Petersburg District Ranger Ted Sandhofer still cautions people to practice fire safety. Use designated fire rings if they’re available. If not, be sure to build the fire on mineral material, like dirt, rocks or sand, rather than organic material. Always have a water source available, and bring a shovel to scoop sand or dirt on the fire when extinguishing it.

“Use your hand and put it over the fire pit to make sure it’s cool,” he says. “Have fun, but make sure your fire is out. 95% of the wildfires in Southeast Alaska are human-caused.”

As always, Sandhofer says, keep an eye on kids and pets. Don’t leave food or food packaging unattended. Bring a trash bag with you, and be prepared to pack everything out. If bear-proof trash cans are available at a site, use them.

“Bears are out there, and they’re always looking for food,” he says. “You just have to be careful and treat them with respect.”

Firework debris is some of the most common litter the Forest Service finds after Independence Day. When it comes to firework safety, Sandhofer says, use common sense. Don’t shoot fireworks up into trees.

The wildfire risk was listed as high in the southern part of the Tongass this week. Safety information for national forests is available year-round at