2020 fire season less than typical

In 2019, about 5,000 people from the Lower 48 came to Alaska to help fight wildfires
Published: Sep. 6, 2020 at 4:22 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Alaska’s 2020 fire season was lower than typical for the state, according to Beth Ipsen, a spokesperson with the Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service.

However, “We were the big show last year unfortunately,” Ipsen said. But that wasn’t the case this year.

In 2019, about 5,000 people from the Lower 48 came to Alaska to help fight wildfires. In 2020, only about 300 came to the state, Ipsen said.

“Alaskans, they probably remember it well throughout the entire state. Anywhere from the Mat-Su Valley with the McKinley Fire and how destructive that was,” Ipsen said. “And the Swan Lake Fire. We had help from the Lower 48 come up.”

So far, in 2020, 333 fires have burned about 181,000 acres, which ranks the year at 55th, since record keeping started in 1935, Ipsen said.

While 2019 ranks 11th when 719 fires burned 2.5 million acres.

“While last year, it was a very unusual fire season, it was long, it was destructive, it didn’t even break into the top ten as far as the number of acres burned,” Ipsen said.

Alaska’s record season was 2004, she said. About 6.5 million acres burned.

“Mother Nature kind of has the upper hand in dictating how fire season goes. This year, we had a lot of wide-spread rain throughout Alaska, where last year it was hot and dry.”

Ipsen says the lower fire season in 2020 has saved the state money, but she does not have the number calculated.

She cautions even though it is getting colder, fires can still start.

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