Wednesday, August 05, 2009

Sitting Here in Goldstream, Watching the Smoke

Yesterday evening, a bunch of us stood outdoors watching the sky turn a peculiar orangeish gray. There was so much smoke that it seemed like it might be 11 or 12 at night, not 9:30 in the evening. Everyone on the road had switched on their headlights. (For you Lower 48ers - we still don't get dark until pretty late - Land O' Midnight Sun, etc.)

The smoke wasn't from the Railbelt Complex down by Nenana, or the Wood River fire, but from the Hardluck Creek fire that is getting closer enough to our northern wilderburbs to make some of my friends pretty worried about their homes. More fire crews (likely from Outside, resources here are stretched thin) arrived last night.

All the fires here in Squarebanks region made significant runs yesterday. A new fire, out Chena Hot Springs Road, was ripping, from what I've heard. It's like 2004, which was my first summer in Squarebanks, except that we just witnessed the driest July ever recorded. It is scary dry out here. Relative humidities have been very low. Temperatures have been high. This is the kind of stuff that makes for what the professionals call 'extreme fire behavior.' Firefighters are not catching a break from this weather.

The Alaska Interagency Coordination Center's report this morning on Hardluck Creek was not encouraging:
"Extreme fire behavior was observed with torching, crowning and runs in Black Spruce with spotting 1/2 mile. Night fire was also extreme. 30 structures are threatened and 3 structures were destroyed: 1 vacation home, and 2 cabins. Personnel have been unable to accurately map the fire at this time.Tomorrow crews will continue structure protection and try and hold the fire on the North and the East at Bennett Road."
For days, everyone has been repeating the same hopeful adage - the Tanana Fair is starting this weekend, so you know we'll get rain then. Seriously, the Fair is famous for shitty weather. Me, I've been worried that one of my neighbors* (in the loose sense, meaning someone within a few miles of my property) will do something stupid: try to burn a brush pile, decide to dispose of trash via a burn barrel, opt to light off some fireworks, etc... And then we'd have fire busting out here in the Valley. Stupidity knows no season.

So, we're watching, waiting, and finishing up making our property 'fire wise', clearing all the combustibles from within a 30 foot perimeter around the house, aka creating 'defensible space.' A friend helped me chuck the wood pile away further from the house a few weeks ago, thankfully. I've spent days cutting down vegetation around the house and raking out all the dead stuff. Luckily, we don't have black spruce on the lot, and only one tree (a birch) is within 30 feet, and that sucker will come down in a heartbeat if we think things are getting close.

I can't necessarily say that for all my neighbors*. The Valley is, in places, a rabbit warren of dry cabins and houses tucked into the woods. Some places are thick with black spruce and downed dead trees. (And, friends in the Lower 48, we don't have hydrants up here.)



Ishmael said...

Good for you and your Firewise ways. Best of luck!

TwoYaks said...

You get the Grant for firewise? I know some folks who got some money for that...

They've temporarily banned personal and commercial woodcutting in state forests, because of the fire risk. A bunch of idiots have announced this is all to clamp down on woodstoves. And that they're going to woodcut anyhow. Some moron is going to burn us all down.

KCB said...

Claws crossed for you and your neighbors.

Alaskan Dave Down Under said...

Damn, fingers crossed that no one does anything stupid. We've had a rainy winter, I'll wish some of it your way.

CabinDweller said...

TwoYaks: No grant. Just referring to the whole 'create a defensible space' approach to the yard and house.

Tonight is not orangeish gray, more of a pale peach grey. Very very heavy smoke today, probably because of high relative humidity and cooler temperatures causing the fire to smolder. I doubt that any aircraft could scout the fire -- way too much dense smoke. So we don't know exactly how big it is.

Thanks everyone!

Anonymous said...

Claws crossed for you and your neighbors. nice one..

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