Wildfires that have been plaguing Alaska for weeks appeared to be getting worse over the last couple days. According to KTUU, who cited the Bureau of Land Management’s Alaska Fire Service, 10 new fires started Wednesday. On Thursday, the Alaska Multi-Agency Coordination (MAC) Group raised its Preparedness Level from 4 to 5.
“Preparedness Level 5 (PL5) is assigned when large fires that require incident management teams are occurring in several areas simultaneously and is the highest level identified in the Alaska Preparedness Plan,” Alaska Wildland Fire Information said Wednesday. “PL5 status means most of the initial and extended attack resources are committed to new and existing fires.”
According to Alaska Wildland Fire Information, “Red Flag warnings due to hot and dry conditions” were forecast for parts of Alaska from Thursday afternoon until early Friday. A Fire Weather Watch also been declared into Friday night.
The wildfires that have continued to blaze for most of June are the latest in what’s been a brutal year of wildfires in Alaska. Citing the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, Alaska Wildland Fire Information reported “a total of 353 fires have burned in Alaska this year on more than 1.5 million acres.”
According to the Washington Post, the state has seen a million acres of wildfire damage in a single year just 11 times in the last 30 years. Alaska crossed this threshold on June 18, according to this tweet from climate specialist Rick Thoman.
“This makes June 18 the earliest date in (at least) the past 32 years to exceed one million acres,” Thoman tweeted. According to the Post, this trend could get worse in the future due to climate change.
“Longer growing seasons thicken tundra vegetation, allowing wildfire spread to skyrocket in recent years,” Post writers Jacob Feuerstein and Nathaniel Herz wrote last week. “More than 2.5 times more acres burned from 2001 to 2020 than in the previous two decades, according to the International Arctic Research Center.”