Alaska’s Forest Fires 2015

Alaska Forest FireForest fires have not been in the news much this summer in the US, at least not in the lower 48.  It’s still early in the year, and it’s been a very wet Spring for a lot of the country, but it doesn’t take long for things to dry out and become tinder.

The exception is Alaska. They’ve had a dry spring and their forest lands were poised to ignite as summer arrived.  With news channels focused on the debris towed away by the catastrophes of tornadoes in the middle of the country, we at Fire-Systems have taken great notice of the massive loss resulting from forest fires reigning in Alaska.

Alaska is burning like never before.  With over a million acres burned to date, there is no sign of that number stabilizing anytime soon.  Yes, each year brings a number of forest fires to this great wooded state, but these numbers are growing daily.  To put the current wild land fires in perspective, there were 61 new fires logged on Monday alone.  That’s just in one day.  That number adds to the year’s total of 504 fires with over 300 currently burning.  Sadly, we aren’t even close to the end of fire season yet.

Because Alaska is such a vast wilderness many of the fires are not near populated areas.  In fact some are so remote that firefighters are not sent in as a measure of control.  They are monitored, but not actively fought.  In other areas there are 2,700 boots on the ground and in the air attempting to manage and squelch the areas of greatest concern.  Some fires have at least 100 active smoke jumpers holding the destruction at bay.

Nature has a way of replenishing itself through forest fires, and people respectfully heed her process. Fires serve a purpose.  When lightening strikes, causing an area to ignite the activity and aftermath of the burn leaves the forest renewed.  The burned vegetation puts minerals back into the soil.  This nourishes young growth and provides food for the indigenous animal population.  When the conditions threaten the overall eco-balance of an area with large concentrations or particular locations that make them a threat to people, then human intervention is necessary.

With the amount of burn taking place climatologist are also concerned about the impact this could have on global warming.  While global warming is rising at a metered pace the amount of additional emissions from possibly millions of acres of scorching land could add significantly to increase the rate.

Residents complain about the smoke filled air being a constant irritant and keep doors and windows closed.  There is an ever present smog prevailing over Fairbanks and its become a fact of life when spending summer in the great Alaskan outdoors.  The smoke is spreading through Canada adding to their own season of breakouts.  Riding the upper wind levels, smoke particles are reaching down into the central parts of the US. 

If you notice an orange appearance around the moon, likely that is smoke drifting down from Canada and Alaska. The smoke is being carried as far south as Arkansas.  An interesting side note: The increased levels of smoke can actually escalate the number of tornadoes in Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa and other tornado prone areas due to lowering the cloud base along with increasing the wind shear.  Combined, these two conditions boosts the likelihood of more frequent and stronger tornadoes.

What can be done is being done.  The tax payer pays for the firefighters putting their lives at risk everyday, and no matter which State we reside showing appreciation for them and their fire-systems is always welcome.