FAIRBANKS - The North Pole fire chief has ordered a halt to the sale of fireworks in the city as the prolonged period of hot and dry weather sends the risk of wildfire soaring, and borough Mayor Luke Hopkins and local fire officials are scheduled to meet with the state fire marshal today to discuss wider restrictions.
North Pole halted sales on Friday, a week and a half before the Fourth of July. North Pole is the only area in the borough that permits fireworks sales — twice a year for two weeks prior to Independence Day and New Year’s Eve.
North Pole city code allows Fire Chief Buddy Lane to halt sales if weather conditions become dangerous.
“The concern is that the extreme temperatures and no moisture is making fire conditions extreme,” Lane said. “We’re trying to reduce any kind of possibility of a new start wherever possible until things break and we get some sustained rain.”
The last time the city halted fireworks sales was in 2006. Lane said rain a couple days before the holiday made it safe to allow sales for a few days.
North Pole Mayor Bryce Ward said the ban is important to reducing the risk of fires but that he’s considering an ordinance that would allow the city to reschedule the fireworks sale period for later in the year if it’s canceled.
“The ordinance would allow us to change the date if for some reason it’s halted,” he said. “If it’s the two-week period that is halted, that would allow us to open two weeks in August. ... Our vendors are a big part of the community.”
Setting off fireworks is still legal, although discouraged, on private land outside the city of Fairbanks. The borough has no authority to limit fireworks.
Hopkins said conditions warrant a discussion of further curbs on fireworks.
“There’s an incredible fire hazard right now and it’s not getting better,” he said. “We’re evaluating the expected fire conditions around the Fourth of July from the midweek to the weekend. ... We’re asking what is the best curtailment, if any.”
Contact staff writer Matt Buxton at 459-7544 and follow him on Twitter: @FDNMpolitics.