Friday, June 10, 2011

WTB better air quality

As the national news focuses on wildfires in Arizona and Texas (and we all send well-wishes to those affected) we in Fairbanks have our own wildfires to burden us. Only a few homes are threatened (or have burned down), but the air quality has severely suffered. Yesterday would have been a great day to get a picture from the hill where I work of the valley below, if I'd remembered my camera. The fire is in a different valley, so it wasn't visible. But our area looked gray, rainy and foggy. Except it wasn't fog, it was smoke.
Today is a little better in appearance, but the air quality has still been judged to be unhealthy for sensitive groups. Apparently, I fit into that group because my sinuses have been killing me for the last couple of days. Shane and I laid down to watch a movie last night and the fluid in my sinuses moved around and it felt like water rushing up my nose. Fun, right? I was hoping that the rain yesterday would have helped, but since the skies hardly did more than sprinkle it wasn't as great as everyone was hoping. Most Fairbanksters would say that their perfect summer weather has a torrential downpour about once a week to keep the fires down, while being hot and sunny the rest of the week.
Several fires have been burning continuously for several years, smoldering in the bogs over the long winters. Crazy, right? It doesn't really seem possible. But fires can also spread through the roots of trees in the right types of soil. (Clay especially, like we have in places around here--my friend went home the other day to discover that his dirt driveway was on fire!)
Obviously, wildfires are a normal, natural part of how the forests in Alaska (and really, any temperate forests) regenerate. But the fires from the past few years have been out of control. It gets hardly a word in the national press because we're a) not important unless spouting inanities like, "I can see Russia from my house!" And b) as I said before, not many homes are threatened. (The town of Anderson was evacuated a couple summers ago, but that was roughly 20 homes.) It should matter more, though, because these fires are a sign that the arctic is getting warmer and warmer. Fires are natural, yes. But we've broken quite a few records in the past decade and the problem only seems to be getting worse. Like with the spiders, it's a long-term trend. One large fire is not indicative of global warming. But a decade of severe, unceasing fires is. And as long as they're around, people like me who are sensitive to the air quality are going to have really, really bad days.
And until these fires go away, I'm going to be thanking the firefighters I know every chance I get. After all, I just have to deal with bad air quality. They're the ones actually protecting us from the fires. They deserve a little thanks at the very least.

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