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Forestry leaders expect increased holdover fires from 2019 season

by Grant Robinson, KTUU-TV (Anchorage, Alaska) |

As snow and ice melt across Alaska, forestry workers are already seeing signs of hotspots from 2019 wildfires that smoldered over the winter and expect to see more as the season progresses.

"These fires, last summer especially, given the really extreme, dry conditions around the state and especially in the Mat-Su late season with those fires, those fires burnt really deep down into the soil," Alaska Division of Forestry information officer Tim Mowry said. "They can hang on and linger and they just smolder and smolder and that snow actually serves as insulation for those fires and it helps them carry through the winter."

State wild-land firefighters have already responded to check on hot spots reported in the area of the Deshka Landing Fire.

"When we say ‘holdover fire,’ these aren't really fires. These are just pockets of heat that are still putting up smoke," Mowry said. "A lot of these, like the Deshka Landing hot spots, they're within the perimeter of that fire and there's not really a threat of that stuff moving out. It needs fuel, and all the fuel around it has been burned, is black. But it's something we're definitely keeping an eye one."

Mowry says that while hot spots are to be expected and often do not pose a significant risk of starting a larger fire, people in the area should avoid areas where they see smoke.

"If you see these, don't go near them. There can still be ash pits that are there. I know it's hard to fathom after the winter we had that something would still be hot and burning under the ground, but that's a possibility," Mowry said.

"After last year's season I would expect a lot of people to be out picking morel mushrooms in some of these burned areas, so I would encourage them to keep an eye out for any kinds of signs that there might still be some heat there."