Chilkat Valley News - Serving Haines and Klukwan, Alaska since 1966

Haines heats up; burn ban out


July 12, 2018

Temperatures have been hot, causing more than just sunburns for Haines residents — burn bans were in effect for Haines and Skagway until Tuesday.

This Fourth of July was the hottest on record in almost seven decades, tying the 1951 record high of 84 degrees, as measured at the Haines airport National Weather Service station. The average temperature for the Fourth is 57 degrees.

The heat spell was caused by warm winds coming down from Canada, said David Levin, a forecaster for the National Weather Service in Juneau. “Our weather is pretty much dictated by the wind coming from the Gulf of Alaska or Canada.” Land heats much faster than water, so the wind that sinks down from Canada builds much warmer patterns than the chillier, more frequent wind coming from the Gulf.

The hot, sunny weather also contributed to a burn ban issued and active in Haines Thursday, July 5 to Tuesday, July 10.

Fire chief Al Giddings said that with fluctuating humidity, changing weather and intense sun drying out vegetation, it was a good idea to declare a ban. The ban covered all open fires, burn barrels, campfires and wood or charcoal barbecues in the borough, though enclosed gas barbecues were allowed.

The National Weather Service in Juneau, the state Division of Forestry and the Skagway Fire Department came together to analyze fire-index conditions, though the Haines fire department made the call for the borough. Giddings said all parties were in agreement that the ban was the safe call.

“It wouldn’t have taken anything — just a little campfire spark, a cigarette flipped into the grass, and you would have had a full-on take-off,” Giddings said.

“The biggest thing is that we’ve had a lot of sun and not a lot of moisture,” said Haines firefighter Darwin Feakes. The same thing that happens to the grass in your yard happens in the forest, Feakes said. While it may be wet to the touch in the morning, heat and sun dry it out by mid-afternoon, creating a lot of potential fuel. That combined with the tree density, steep topography and vegetation that can help a flame climb from forest ground to canopy, make for dangerous conditions.

The number of available firefighter volunteers also factors into the decision, Giddings said, and during summertime vacation season he especially errs on the side of precaution. “Everyone in Haines understands, and they cooperate fully.”

Residents can find out about current burn ban status on the radio; through Nixle, a free public safety text alert program; or by calling dispatch.


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