Fires in Alaska

Fires in Alaska
25 June 2004


Huge, smoky fires continued to burn throughout east-central Alaska on June 24,2004. Most of the blazes were triggered by lightning around June 14 and 15, whena record-breaking 8,500 strikes reportedly hit the state in just 24 hours. Thisimage from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite shows the region alight with fires that are billowing large amounts ofsmoke, which hangs over the Yukon Territory, Canada, at image right. Areas whereMODIS detected active fires are outlined in red. At the top of the scene are thePingo (top) and Winter Trail (to the southeast) Fires, each of which was morethan 50,000 acres as of June 24. Along the Tanana River in the lower part of thescene, the Billy Creek Fire (to the south of image center) is creating a massivesmoke plume. To the southeast of the Billy Creek Fire, the Porcupine Fire isgiving off a smaller, but nonetheless impressive column of smoke. (Source: EarthObservatory)

(Image courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center)

The following image was captured by the ModerateResolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite on 24 June 2004. Smoke plumes coming from the fires burning in Alaskacan be well perceived on the left side of the image.

Aqua Satellite
20:10 UTC
24 June 2004

(Image based on data from the MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA-GSFC)

Fires triggered by lightning in the week of June 14 have continued to burnacross eastern Alaska on June 23, 2003. This image captured by the Terra satellite’s ModerateResolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) shows numerous large firesscorching the landscape and filling the skies with thick smoke. Some of the mostextreme fire behavior is occurring at the Pingo and Winter Trail Fires (top).The Pingo fire grew 16,690 acres since the previous day’s mapping, to reach asize of 52,930 acres. The Winter Trail Fire grew rapidly to the north and east,increasing by more than 32,000 acres between mapping periods on June 22 and 23,and was 49,670 as of June 23. (Source: EarthObservatory)

(Image courtesy: the MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA-Goddard Space Flight Center)


21 June 2004

Fires in Alaska blacken more than 80,000 acres

TheSolstice complex, burning in black spruce and tundra, was composed of 15 fires.The largest was the 33,000-acre Pingo fire 10 miles north of the village ofVenetie, said fire information officer Gary Lehnhausen.

Alsopart of the 55,000-acre complex is the 18,000-acre Winter Trail fire, he said.

Fire andweather conditions so far have prevented crews from clearing fire line aroundthe Pingo blaze.

ThePingo fire is burning on private land owned by the Venetie tribe, which has beenconcerned about protecting timber, fish and wildlife.

But it’sbeen “so hot and so dry and the fuel conditions are so dense, that wehaven’t been able to put firefighters on the ground,” Lehnhausen said.”About a week ago, we had Hotshots and smokejumpers get run off because itwas just too hot.”

OnMonday afternoon, it was about 90 degrees there and thunder cells were buildingover the fire, creating downdrafts that made it too dangerous to send crews tothe scene, Lehnhausen said.

“Iam specifically worried about the thunderstorm buildup. If there are morelightning strikes from these … the chances of ignition are quite good,”Lehnhausen said.

Lightningfrom the thunderstorms started at least one new fire near Stevens Village onMonday and smokejumpers were dispatched to the site, he said.

Firemanagers hoped to begin building fire line on the Pingo blaze on Tuesday, ifweather is favorable. About 200 people have been assigned to the complex offires.

TheAmerican Summit fire, about 15 miles south of Eagle, had blackened about 10,000acres, said Maggie Rogers, a spokeswoman for the Alaska Fire Service.

The9,000-acre Chicken fire, in black spruce and tundra, was burning 50 milesnortheast of Tok, forcing the intermittent closure of the Taylor Highway betweenmileposts 45 and 66.

TheBoundary fire, 57 miles northeast of Fairbanks, had burned 6,200 acres of spruceand tundra. Crews are working on site protection where appropriate, but therewas no immediate threat to life or homes, Rogers said.

Elsewherein Alaska, the U.S. Forest Service has issued a fire danger alert for theTongass National Forest in the southeast part of the state because of unusuallywarm, dry conditions.

Theagency urged people to be extra careful with campfires and machinery in thewoods.

Peopleresponsible for starting wildfires can face fines of up to $5,000, along withthe cost of suppressing the fire and the value of resources destroyed.

Source: The BillingsGazette 


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