2005 Wildland Fire Season Summary


"They" said it would not happen again in 2005 since 2004 was a record breaking season of wildland fires in Alaska. "They" said fire seasons like 2004 happen about every 50 years - 1957 was the largest fire season before 2004. After the fire season of 2005, we know "They" were wrong.... At 4.7 million acres, the fire season of 2005 is ranked third in the Alaskan record books. The 1957 fire season, at 5.06 million acres, is ranked second.

Why was 2005 another large fire season? In Interior Alaska, much of the August precipitation was 50% to 75% less than normal; August 2005 was the driest August in Fairbanks in 101 years. Record lightning and lightning fires occurred on the Kenai Peninsula. There were 19 lightning fires in 2005 while there were 25 lightning fires from 1985 to 2004. Approximately 3 million acres burned during August - over 60% of the total acreage burned in 2005.

Smoke again drifted over much of the state during the summer and early fall. The worst smoke concentrations in the Fairbanks area were in mid-August. However, according to the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, public issues and concerns were not as prevalent in 2005 as in 2004 due to fire locations and weather patterns.

How bad was the air in Fairbanks the summer of 2005?

A particulate monitor in downtown Fairbanks captured the local PM2.5 levels (particulate matter with a diameter 2.5 micrometers or less). Local 2005 particulate levels from wildland fires improved over 2004 levels. However, levels were still not in the "GOOD" air quality category.

  • As in 2004, the highest hourly levels recorded in Fairbanks were over 1000 micrograms/cubic meter.
  • Recorded levels in Fairbanks were over EPA's Hazardous 24 hour level for 5 days. View the Fairbanks 24 hour and hourly particulate level graphs. When levels reach “Hazardous” (over 250 micrograms / cubic meter for 24 hour average), EPA cautions that everyone should avoid any outdoor exertion, and people with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly, and children should remain indoors.
  • 24 hour recorded PM2.5 levels in Fairbanks were over EPA's Unhealthy category ( 65 micrograms per cubic meter) for 11 days.
  • The average daily summer PM2.5 level in the Fairbanks area is 10 micrograms/cubic meter. EPA considers this level in the Good category.
  Fairbanks 2005 daily PM2.5 graph   Fairbanks 2005 Hourly PM2.5 graph
 

24 hour Average PM2.5 Particulate Levels: Summer of 2005, Fairbanks, AK (updated chart coming)

 

Fairbanks Hourly PM2.5 Particulate Levels: Summer of 2005, Fairbanks, AK

DEC issued Air Quality Alerts and Advisories between June 20 and August 31, 2005. The Fairbanks / Interior area received the first alerts. The alerts were later issued statewide as harmful levels of smoke drifted over larger areas of the state, and new fires started in other regions. Cooler, wetter weather and changing winds moved smoke out of most communities in mid-September. Persons with respiratory or heart disease, the elderly, and children were most at risk from particulates.

Facts from the Alaska Interagency Fall Fire Review of the 2005 Fire Season and from the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center (as of February 27, 2005):

  • There were 624 total fires: 310 human caused and 314 lightning caused
  • 4.7 million total acres burned (4.5 million acres burned due to lightning caused fires)
  • The three largest fires:
    • Nelson Mountain - 244,600 acres
    • Salmon Fork - 236,700 acres
    • Old Dummy - 231,820 acres
  • The Joint Information Center was not opened during the summer of 2005.
  • Excellent safety record for firefighters continued with no fatalities and no major injuries reported
  • At the end of the fire season, many Alaska resources, including the Alaska Type 1 Incident Management Team, went to the Lower 48 in support of hurricane relief efforts

Links to other information: