Washington Post] FAIRBANKS, Alaska — Hundreds of wildfires are continually whipping across this state this summer, leaving in their wake millions of acres of charred trees and blackened earth.
At the Fairbanks compound
of the state’s Division of Forestry recently, workers were busy washing a
mountain of soot-covered fire hoses, which stood in piles roughly six
feet high and 100 feet long. About 3,500 smokejumpers, hotshot crews,
helicopter teams and other workers have traveled to Alaska this year
from across the country and Canada. And they have collectively deployed
about 830 miles of hose this year to fight fires.
An hour north
of the state’s second-biggest city, firefighters were attacking flames
stretching across more than 31,000 acres, including an area close to the
Trans-Alaska pipeline system, which stretches from Prudhoe Bay to
Valdez. And that’s just one of about 300 fires at any given time.
“People don’t fathom how big Alaska is. You can have a 300,000-acre
fire, and nobody knows anything about it, because nothing’s been done
about it, because of where it is,” says Tim Mowry, spokesman for the
Alaska Division of Forestry.
The staggering 2015 Alaska wildfire
season may soon be the state’s worst ever, with almost 5 million acres
already burned — an area larger than Connecticut. The pace of the burn
has moderated in the last week, but scientists say the fires are just
the latest indicator of a climatic transformation that is remaking this
state — its forests, its coasts, its glaciers, and perhaps most of all,
the frozen ground beneath — more than any other in America. Read More