Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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Air quality: Worse in Alaska than in China right now

Minto, Alaska had air quality so bad this morning that, according to live tracking by the Environmental Protection Agency, it was off the air quality charts:

A forest fire near Livengood, north of Fairbanks, is now at more than 145,000 acres, adding to smoke from the Shovel Creek Fire to make conditions across the interior unhealthy.

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The air quality in Minto, population 210, this morning was bad enough to be a health hazard to all residents, regardless of their underlying health condition, according to the website, which monitors and reports air quality in real time. Minto had by far the worst air among all sites measured on the planet.

Other sites in Alaska had no bragging rights for air quality, as fires burn in Kenai, Talkeetna, and Fairbanks. Most of the big fires were caused by lightning strikes.

Readers visiting the website may find better or worse conditions around Alaska and the world as the winds shift and fires change course.

But for those in Minto, they probably don’t need to be told that these are choking conditions.

Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing
Suzanne Downing had careers in business and journalism before serving as the Director of Faith and Community-based Initiatives for Florida Gov. Jeb Bush and returning to Alaska to serve as speechwriter for Gov. Sean Parnell. Born on the Oregon coast, she moved to Alaska in 1969.


  1. The BLM/AFS and State Division of Forestry need to be investigated for their “let it burn” policy. With air tanker support to retard fire growth quickly, what fools don’t use that method immediately? Forest managers who truly believe that forest fires are more important than human health should be prosecuted. Two-thirds of Alaska residents are choking on dirty air, right now. These fires could have been extinguished at their onset, with one pass by retardant bomber. How many elderly and children need to go to the ER with pulmonary conditions to make these idiots understand the dangers that they pose by “letting them burn” so they can get their summer pay fighting them? Disgusting!

    • Years of this type of thinking is what has led to the overloading of forests which in turn cause large unhealthy fires. Had we not spent the past 50-70 years fighting every little fire and simply allowed fire to run it’s natural course we wouldn’t be where we are with large fires today. The only way to get back to smaller controllable fires is to remove the stockpile of fuel.

      • Not in the middle of a hot summer, when people are outdoors and tourism is in full swing. Grow a brain!!!

        • Most of these fires were lightning strikes. I don’t know of anyone who has the power to make lighting fall from the sky at a particular time of year, tourist season or not.

        • Hot Summer? You mean when fires are basically unstoppable?


          There are millions of acres of dry fuel out there. Do you have a magic wand you’re holding out on us with?

        • These fires light themselves with lightning. Which in itself is bad because this is the most lightning in a year that I’ve seen, and more is expected this summer, these fires will probably burn till aug/sept, then the rain and dampness will come in and will put them out mostly. If it was attempted to extinguish them it would take 3/4s of the fire fighters in the US. Let it burn, let it burn, I’ll let it burn like it’s going in an Urn.

    • Johnnie Green, This ain’t California, we have 500,000+ acres of wild fires, no running water in these areas. Most of it’s black spruce which burns hotter than most other woods due to is sap/resin. On top of that our fires dont just burn across the landscape, they burn underground, we have 20+ thousand years of frozen organic material under these black spruce forests trapped in melting permafrost. The fires can smolder 80-100foot underground for up to a winter and restart in the spring too. When these areas burn they leave scars, but these scars protect the rest of the forests around the area by acting as a buffer zone to other fires in the future.
      Currently the military is tossing around using the area by Fairbanks for a bombing run with some saved up Arsenal cache, Idea is drop a few really big bombs and let the explosions suck the oxygen up outta the area.

    • Johnnie, the BLM and state have limited resources (especially firefighters). There are firefighters from all over the U.S. in Alaska right now helping fight fires that are near structures/endangering life and property. It’s hot, it’s dry, there’s been no precipitation for weeks. It doesn’t take much for a fire to grow in those conditions.

      I encourage you to take a look at the AFS Facebook. Make some comments there and let them answer your questions. I think you’ll find they’re working hard to keep people safe.

      • Still can’t roll with you fellows. The Shovel Creek fire is about 12 miles north of Fairbanks and a 100,000 population. I watched it start burning at about 5 acres on the evening of June 21st, from the window of my Super Cub. One retardant drop would have iced it. But no. ADF “let it burn.” Now, greater Fairbanks is literally choking to death.

          • Art, I reported it to another pilot. On the way back from the Brooks two days later, it was only at about 15 acres. Still no retardant strikes and maybe 5 ground workers. Then it really took off with the hot windy weather, and became out of control. Now, about 800 fighters on it and about 15% contained. They could have doused it on day two or three. Fires in Alaska are big money.

          • Well, all of those guys work for Dunleavy now. I guess you know who to look to for answers. I haven’t looked closely but I don’t think there have been enough budget allocation in forest to keep up with inflation. Fuel and planes are expensive as I’m sure you know.


            Big money? Are you suggesting there is malfeasance in the Dunleavy government? Does his Commissioner know about this?


            We probably just need more cuts

          • Art, don’t hit Dunleavy for this. The fire managers at the state division of forestry miscalculated on the Shovel Fire. When the fires ignite this close to town, they should be pounced on from the air immediately. Idle air tankers make no sense. Fairbanks is once again covered in thick, dense smoke. 1/4 mile visibility. It hurts to breath. Believe me.

          • The fire managers work for Dunleavy.


            Either the buck stops with the big man or it doesn’t.


            Smoke? In Alaska? Go figure. I imagine it’s harder for the firefighters (who aren’t unionized) to breath.


            Some people act like they are on a paid picnic.

          • What part of the buck stopping do you not understand?


            You want to blame the managers? Blame their boss.

      • Where are the retardant bombers that can do the REAL job? All we see on TV are the bunches of firefighters standing around and occasionally striking the ground with a pick and shovel or squirting the tundra with a shot of water from a three gallon bucket strapped on their back. Anyone know how much these hotshots make per day?

        • Going with Johnnie on this one. What is a retardant bomber for, if not for retarding a fire at its start? Any fool can read the seven day weather forecast and see that hot weather is coming. They should be on top of those fires immediately with air tankers, BEFORE they grow out of control. Shovel Creek is right near town. This was dumb. GOVERNMENT DUMB!
          Now the entire community is sick.

  2. “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes”. An old song. As much as we despise the occluded conditions, due to smoke, in much of Alaska, there is little choice except ‘deal with it’. Do whatever it takes (masks, air filters, etc.), like Alaskans always do. Either that and/or join in the firefighting efforts to extinguish the myriad smoke generating fires. Forest/brush fires were formerly (long time ago) known as the “Great Restorers” by many indigenous peoples. Some evergreen trees cannot reproduce without fire sparking the gestation/reproductive cycle. Now, thanks to inept, liberal, ‘conservationist’ “forest management”, the fires are mostly a great catastrophe. Rain is forecast for much of Alaska in the coming days/weeks and should provide a modicum of respite from the fires and smoke. Hang in there Alaskans. Mother Nature knows what She’s doing. She’s not always pleasant but She is in control.

  3. I’ve lived and worked in China for 10 years off and on, there is no way our worst day off at quality is worse than the best day in any of China’s cities, perhaps hundreds of miles in the country if China.

    • We’ve bought into the EPA farce definition of unhealthy. If it is so bad where are all the dead bodies? I find it interesting that OSHA has no such standards for “PM 2.5” in the work setting because their studies were inconclusive as to harmful effects. Could it be that EPA is a malignant, out-of-control bureaucracy just doing its best to control and manipulate?

      • Yeah, just think we could have air like China ALL the time….if it weren’t for those meddlesome folks at the EPA.

  4. Countdown to liberals’ jumping on this as proof that Climate Change (is that what it is being called today) affects minorities the most.

  5. Yes this is all about greed, happened in California , now here and other parts of the US, The powers that be could of put this fire out at the on start. Totally agree with Johnnie Green, who says he reported the fire when it hit about 15 acres , could of been stopped right then and there …nothing was done. They can also go in and cut and clear and be more proactive in these fires, We are having a difficult time with our animals and the elderly here in Anchorage as well. Where is all the military in all of this heat, fire and smoke chaos , Where are the water planes, retardants and other methods we have to douse this dangerous fire , it is out of control…Blessings to the firefighters and the brave souls that are actually fighting the flames. Everyone pray for rain now, it is up to the higher power now. God will deliver a bountiful abundance of rain , prefer flooding to fire any day or night

    • Where is your check to provide the State with all of that stuff?


      When hatred of government is a religion Pt. 45 on Must Read Alaska.

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