Alaska is on fire: more than 225 wildfires rage across the state

Drought, extreme temperatures and thousands of lightning strikes every day have set wildfires around the world. Alaskainterior.

Wildfires have burned more than 2.4 million acres of land this year, more than double the area normally burned at this point in the state’s wildfire season.

Alaska’s wildfire season typically starts in late May and ends in late July, and the National Park Service says it averages one million acres a year across the state.

The fires are caused by lightning strikes that have engulfed the state, with about 25,000 strikes detected between June 28 and July 4, and more than 10,000 strikes since then.

There are only about 1,000 firefighters in the interior of the state who work tirelessly around the clock to put out more than 225 fires that are forcing hundreds of residents from their homes.

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Drought, extreme temperatures and thousands of lightning strikes every day have created the perfect storm for wildfires inside Alaska. Pictured is a wildfire that burned 780,000 acres near Lime Village, Alaska.

Rick Toman, Alaska Climate Specialist at the University of Fairbanks, wrote for Talk: “At the start of the season, southwest Alaska was one of the few areas in the state with below-normal snow cover.

“Then we had a warm spring and southwest Alaska dried up. An outbreak of a thunderstorm there in late May and early June sparked.

“Global warming has also increased the amount of fuel – plants and trees – that can be burned. More fuel means more intense flames.”

“So weather factors — a warm spring, low snow cover, and unusual thunderstorm activity — combined with years of warming that allowed vegetation to grow in southwest Alaska, are together fueling an active fire season.”

More than 2.4 million acres of land have been burned this year, more than double what is normally burned during this time of the state's wildfire season.  The picture shows the Minto Lakes fire, which engulfed more than 30,000 acres of land.

More than 2.4 million acres of land have been burned this year, more than double what is normally burned during this time of the state’s wildfire season. The picture shows the Minto Lakes fire, which engulfed more than 30,000 acres of land.

There were severe storms this past weekend, with more than 7,180 lightning strikes in Alaska and neighboring areas of Canada, according to the Alaska Fire Department Bureau of Land Management. Washington Post reports.

The next day, another 10,500 bolts were pierced, making the two-day rate the highest in a decade.

And on Monday and Tuesday there were an additional 10,195 bolts.

The National Weather Service office in Fairbanks issued a fire weather warning for much of the state’s interior.

“Plentiful lightning strikes,” the warning says – up to “5,000 lightning strikes per day” – could lead to numerous new fires before Friday, the organization said.

The Alaska Fire Department Bureau of Land Management said in a statement: “Two million acres of land were last burned in Alaska on July 2, 2015.

Alaska's wildfire season typically starts in late May and ends in late July, and the National Park Service says it averages one million acres a year across the state.  In the photo, a clear fire raging in the Black Spruce Forest.

Alaska’s wildfire season typically starts in late May and ends in late July, and the National Park Service says it averages one million acres a year across the state. In the photo, a clear fire raging in the Black Spruce Forest.

In the interior of the state, there are only about 1,000 firefighters who work tirelessly around the clock to put out more than 225 fires (pictured)

There were severe storms this past weekend, according to the Alaska Fire Department, with data reporting more than 7,180 lightning strikes across Alaska and neighboring areas of Canada.  The next day, another 10,500 bolts were driven, making the two-day record the highest in a decade.

There were severe storms this past weekend, with data showing more than 7,180 lightning strikes in Alaska and neighboring areas of Canada. The next day, another 10,500 bolts were pierced, making the two-day rate the highest in a decade. In the interior of the state, there are only about 1,000 firefighters who work tirelessly around the clock to put out more than 225 fires. On the left is a map showing the locations of the wildfires, and on the right are the locations where the lights hit.

“More than 5.1 million acres of land burned across the state during that fire season, the second-highest total in 20 years.”

“During the entire 2019 fire season, about 2.6 million acres burned in Alaska.”

The state is currently on track to surpass the total area burned in the record-breaking 2004 fire season, when more than 6 million acres burned.

Forest fires also affect air quality throughout the interior, forcing many residents to leave their homes.

The National Weather Service office in Fairbanks issued a fire weather warning for much of the state's interior.  Pictured is a house perilously close to the Lime Complex fires.

The National Weather Service office in Fairbanks issued a fire weather warning for much of the state’s interior. Pictured is a house perilously close to the Lime Complex fires.

Pictured is the Douglas Fire, which has already burned over 18,000 acres of land.

Pictured is the Douglas Fire, which has already burned over 18,000 acres of land.

Pictured is a plane flying over Clear, Alaska.  Residents near Kobe Road in the city were ordered to evacuate immediately.

Pictured is a plane flying over Clear, Alaska. Residents near Kobe Road in the city were ordered to evacuate immediately.

On Tuesday, communities in Anderson, Clear, and Clear Space Force Station were advised to prepare a “travel bag” in case they have to evacuate to avoid an incoming fire.

On Monday, Toman shared a tweet saying, “Fairbanks Airport is approaching 300 passengers.” [cumulative] hours with visibility reducing wildfire smoke, all from June 12.”

The Alaska Interagency Coordination Center (AICC) issued alert level 5, the highest level of wildfire activity, for the seventh consecutive day on Wednesday.

“Preparedness Level 5 (PL5) is assigned when large fires requiring the presence of incident management teams occur simultaneously in several areas, and this is the highest level specified in the Alaska Preparedness Plan,” the AICC said in a press release.

“PL5 status means that most of the initial and extended attack resources are focused on new and existing fires.”

“Fire activity continues to rise across the state. The southwestern and northern hinterland of Alaska remain very active with many large fires.”