If you can’t beat em, join em. That was my thought over the Memorial Day weekend-sort of. This is in context to the wildland forest fires and subsequent smoke that is plaguing much of interior Alaska. Intsead of running from the smoke, I figured what the heck, I might as well run to it, and see if I can capture some images of the complex and extensive process of fighting these fires. Here is a quote describing the current forest conditions:
“A low winter snowpack in north-central Alaska and warm spring temperatures combined with a lack of precipitation has driven fuel conditions to historical maximum levels at Tok and Fairbanks Alaska. As surface drying FFMC values climb into the 90 range the potential for rapid spread rates, running crown fire in black spruce and conifer-hardwood mixes is greatly increased. Cumulative curing in feather mosses and surface litter and deep drying in duff layers will contribute to high intensity fires. A high pressure system centered over Alaska continues drying fuels to more critical levels. A break down in the upper level ridge beginning next week may bring conditions favorable for plume dominated fires. Current fuel driven fires are exhibiting short crown-fire runs and prevalent torching. Moderate range spotting is becoming more common.”
Well, that pretty much says it. I ventured to the Eagle trail forest fire near Tok Alaska over the weekend with hopes of getting some front line coverage of the fire. It is currently rated 4 on a scale of 5 in respect to resource allocation and is the number 1 fire in the nation (not is overall size, but priority). I was not able to get access to the front lines of the fire for reasons I don’t want to expound upon at this point. Additionally, the day after I arrived, the relative humidity and winds dropped a bit and the fire continued to burn but did not gain significant ground. Everyone I met said “you should have been here a few days ago when the fire jumped the road!” Yes, I should have been, isn’t that often the story. I learned a lot about the process of fighting fires and got a few photos, but the front line work will have to wait for a more dedicated and well-planned excursion.