Wildfires are still a concern in rainy Southeast

first_imgEconomy | Environment | Southeast | Syndicated | TimberWildfires are still a concern in rainy SoutheastJuly 9, 2015 by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska News Share:A fire left its mark on this Tongass National Forest tree trunk, as seen in 2008. (Creative Commons photo by Xa’at)Much of Alaska has faced or is facing smoke and wildfires this summer. Southeast has too, though with far less impact.As of Wednesday, Tongass National Forest officials counted 16 fires, one more than the regional average for a whole year. And despite some rainfall, the threat continues.Assistant Forest Fire Management Officer Seth Ross says most are campfires that burned down into the forest’s flammable peat soil.“We have had a few lightning fires. This season was warm enough that we did generate some lightning. But traditionally, human-caused fires are our main sources of ignitions,” says Ross, who works out of the Hoonah Ranger District.That’s the case for two late-June fires north of the capital city.Ross says one covered about an acre near 30-mile Glacier Highway and has mostly been extinguished. A section is near a cliff and could be dangerous for firefighters, so it’s being monitored.The other, about a tenth of an acre, was on Bird Island, near Juneau’s mainland. Ross says it’s been extinguished.Fires in a rainforest are rarely above the surface.A fire pit burned into the ground is one of several signs of irresponsible forest use. (Photo courtesy U.S. Forest Service.)“It’ll start to burn underground a little ways in and even the rain often times will not put it out. They won’t necessarily grow very big very fast. But typically, they creep underground and they hang out for weeks on end and we have to go to some lengths to kind of dig in and get those put out,” he says.Firefighters most often pump water onto burning peat and roots. They may also dig into the ground and cut down affected trees.Ross says picnickers, campers, boaters and hikers need to make sure their campfires are out.“People are just enjoying our beautiful woods. And they have a fire and maybe they think the rain is going to put it out or they didn’t do quite as good a job. Or they didn’t realize how dry we are,” Ross says.Putting one’s hand over a doused fire can show whether it’s still live.Ross says the dry spring and summer, preceded by little snow, makes this a problem season.“We also had a pretty light winter. So all those things do line up to make it a little bit more of a summer with higher fire danger,” he says.Small fires have also hit Brown Mountain, northeast of Ketchikan, and Kupreanof Island, west of Petersburg.The Forest Service also put limits on logging in May on Wrangell and Prince of Wales islands to reduce fire danger.As of Wednesday, the agency listed a high fire danger in northern Southeast and a very high fire danger in the south.More rain is predicted this week, but it may not be enough to change that status.Share this story:last_img

Posts Tagged with… , , , , ,

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *