Wildfires have been a major problem throughout Alaska this summer.
Southeast is known for its ever-present rain and chilly weather. But now, even the rainforest is hot and dry.
Wrangell has been under a burn ban for the last week, and the town is still waiting for rain.
This unusually warm and sunny weather is the talk of the town this season.
Christie Jamieson was born and raised in Wrangell. She says she hasn’t seen a summer like this since she was a kid.
“I’ve talked about this with some close friends who live down South in the lower 48 and also here and we all agree that we haven’t had a summer like this in years and years and years,” says Jamieson.
“It’s been just lots of sunshine and dry spells here. It’s probably up there in the top five driest seasons I’ve ever seen,” says Fire Chief Tim Buness.
He says when the ground is dry, fires have a greater chance of spreading and getting out of hand.
“It’s just getting the underbrush on fire or something that will sit there and smolder until people are in bed and then it can extend to a structure, making the fire much larger than if it had been contained to a small area,” says Buness.
That’s why the burn ban covers all outdoor fires. That includes burn barrels, wood in fire pits, and trash or cardboard piles.
Dorianne Blatchley is the administrator at the Fire department. She says that even the most run of the mill burn pile can mean trouble in this weather.
“If they’ve been clearing their lot or whatever, a lot of people are used to being able to go ahead and burn whenever they want to as long as they have a hose or a backhoe or some way of extinguishing that. Just because it’s been so dry, we’re asking that people just hold off until we get a good, heavy rain,” says Blatchley.
Chief Buness says one bout of rain may not even be enough. The ground has to be saturated and be able to stay damp before the Fire Department will lift the ban.
“It’s going to pretty well soak it up here for the first go around or two,” says Buness.
Apart from the fire danger, these dry conditions are tough on residents who live off the city’s water system. Many rely on rainfall catchment systems for water to use in showers, toilets, and sinks.
It’s a catch-22. Southeast residents love the sunny weather while it’s here, but many are now hoping the rain comes back soon, if just for a little while.
For more information about the burn ban, call the Fire Department at 874-3223.