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What Alaska’s record-breaking wildfires mean for the Arctic’s future


Wildfires in Alaska have already burned more than three times as much territory as usual, and fire season isn’t over – the environmental effects could last decades



Environment



10 August 2022

Resources provided mutual aid and responded to five new fires in the Fairbanks area on Monday, July 25th. Two fires are connected to downed trees on powerlines, one involved a structure fire that spread into the wildland, one was unable to be located, and the fifth report resulted in crews monitoring an area for fire activity. Aircraft drops retardant on (600) Old Ridge Trail Fire in Alaska. Photo by James Lily (DOF)

The frequency of large wildfire seasons in Alaska has doubled in 30 years

James Lily/Alaska Division of Forestry

Late in the evening, Walton Smith sat on his front porch and watched the tundra burn. For weeks, a wildfire had been licking towards his home in St Mary’s, a town of 600 people in western Alaska. As the sun sank, he could see flames jump between trees. Smith, who is St Mary’s city manager, says that as the cones in the spruce flared, “all of the trees around it would suddenly be engulfed in flames”.

The state has been ablaze since April, torching 12,400 square kilometres so far – more than three times what normally burns in …



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