"In every walk with nature one receives more than he seeks."
John Muir

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Where there's smoke there's fire...

I wish I had more actual facts for you, but the phenomenon surrounding forest fires is quite unique up here. As dwellers of the "lower 48", you will never hear a frantic news report of massive amounts of acres burning in Alaska. This doesn't mean it isn't happening, quite the contrary. 100,000's of acres of forests burn every summer. It is nature's way of renewal. But since personal property such as large homes and neighborhoods aren't often affected, these massive fires are not newsworthy.

They DO affect those who live in Interior Alaska, however. At times there can be several fires burning in different areas surrounding Fairbanks. This one was about 12 miles away.

Fairbanks sits in a large "bowl" or valley between 3 mountain ranges.
These fires burn for weeks and even months. Firefighters work to control each fire on the ground and from the air, but they can't be extinguished easily and weather conditions and barometric pressure play a large part in the size and intensity. This has been a rather rainy summer so the fires are not so terrible. But this road that looks like fog is settling in it is actually full of smoke.

I took this picture driving home from Kathleen and Josh's house one evening. The reddish clouds in the foreground are smoke. If you could smell the air, you'd be shocked at the thick odor of the smoke. Sometimes it can be detected by smell rather than sight.

This intense smoke is hard on anyone with breathing problems. The hospital I work at has a whole smoke policy and air purifiers line the hallways and the doors remain closed when the smoke is especially thick.
Even though some have been burning for months, these are rare days of wind patterns that cause the smoke to linger down low like this. You can tell the sun is peeking out from below the smoke because the trees are illuminated.

Here is the late afternoon sun barely able to penetrate the gray smoke. I thought this was an eerie but neat picture.
Don't be misled, we have only had a handful of days that look (and smell) like this. Most of the summer has been clear and full of sunshine and fresh air.

Driving home from Anchorage last weekend was a glorious, sunny evening. But the burning forest fire was still evident in the distance. Do you see the white fluff in front of the mountains but behind the valley of green spruce? This particular fire began June 3. Almost 3 months of burning. The winter snows will eventually extinguish the flames and next spring new growth will appear among the charred trees and ground. The heat explodes the pine cones and seedlings burst out. God's recycling program.

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