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Burning Alaska Facts

Alaska is often thought of as a frozen tundra. But during the long days of summer, temperatures can climb into the upper nineties, and a dry spell can set the countryside ablaze.

Alaska is often thought of as a frozen tundra. But during the long days of summer, temperatures can climb into the upper nineties, and a dry spell can set the countryside ablaze. (View larger version)

Photograph by PSG Films

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  • The village of Alakanuk is a Yup’ik village fifteen miles from the Bering Sea. Residents rely on commercial fishing and subsistence hunting of salmon, beluga, moose, seal, and snowshoe hare to survive.

  • Wildfires are not entirely destructive: they stimulate growth of grasses and shrubs, which in turn supports animal populations such as foxes, voles, and grouse. Fires also recycle nutrients into the soil.

  • Prescribed burning is a method of land management in which fires are set to prepare logged-over areas for reforestation, clear land, or purposefully create changes in habitat to increase wildlife diversity.

  • Areas of land in Alaska fall under four possible categories pertaining to “Fire Protection Levels.” Critical Protection areas include more dense populations of people, while Limited Action areas pertain to land that might benefit from fire, or where the costs of fighting the fire are greater than the fire damage. The two categories in between are Full Protection and Modified Action.

  • Lightning is a major cause of wildfires, sparking 4,194 fires in Alaska between 1940 and 1979. Lightning fires comprised 83 % of the total acres burned during that period.

  • Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic substance obtained from certain types of mushrooms. There are a number of dangerous side effects, including nausea, vomiting, hallucinations and an inability to discern fantasy from reality. Users may also experience panic reactions and psychosis.

  • In 2013, Alaskan wildfires burned 10 times the amount of acres that burned in California. According to a study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, there were more wildfires in Alaska in the last few years than in any other period over the past 10,000 years.

  • In order to reduce the potential for wildfires due to campfires, choose a spot that won’t ignite overhead branches, keep water nearby, don’t leave the fire unattended, and ensure campfires are completely extinguished after use.

  • An airboat can move across land, vegetation, water, and ice.

  • In 2012, American Forests Global ReLeaf supported a tree planting project in Tok, Alaska. 2,700 birch trees were planted; birch trees are resistant to fire while still providing a healthy forest habitat.

  • In Alaska’s local option communities, it’s illegal to possess yeast and sugar with the intention to use the ingredients to make homebrew.

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