With near-record wildfire activity recorded, Alaska moves to readiness level 5

While temperatures this weekend in the state may be 20 degrees above

Cumulative Daily Acres Burned in Alaska, by Year
Cumulative Daily Acres Burned in Alaska, by Year. The Black Line is 2022. Accessed June 29, 2022. University of Alaska Fairbanks.

With record-setting wildfire activity early in the Alaskan fire season and a heat wave looming, the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center on Thursday moved to level five of wildland fire planning, the highest. Currently, there are many large fires that require incident management teams in several regions simultaneously. PL5 status means that most initial and extended attack firefighting resources are committed to new and existing fires. Nationally, the PL is 2, according to the National Interagency Coordination Center, but each geographic region defines its area based on local conditions.

Current fires, July 1, 2022 fire map
The red areas represent the current fires, July 1, 2022

There are currently 160 fires in Alaska, with 17 operating. With hot dry weather forecast, lightning, and red flag warnings, the fire risk is very high. Additionally, fire smoke is at health advisory levels in parts of the state.

Red Flag Warnings, Alaska, July 1, 2022
Red Flag Warnings, Alaska, July 1, 2022

More than 1,646,895 acres have been burned so far this season. Since mid-June, cumulative burned acres to date have been hovering at record levels or higher. As of June 29, the only year more acres have been burned so far is 2015. The average total burning each year in Alaska from 1992 through 2021 was 1,192,909 acres.

Alaskan heat wave, AccuWeather

Forecasters say a thermal dome will rest over Alaska from Friday through Monday that will defy record daily temperatures. Fairbanks is expected to reach an abnormal high of 85 on Friday. That would be three degrees lower than the July 1 record temperature of 88 degrees, which was set just last year.

Abnormal heat will accumulate on already abnormally dry plants, or as it is known to firefighters, fuel. In Anchorage, only 7 percent of the city’s usual June rainfall fell, while Fairbanks saw 36 percent of its June normal rainfall totals.

author: Bill Jaber

After working full-time in prairie fires for 33 years, he continues to learn, striving to be a student of fire. View all posts by Bill Gabert

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