Steve Perrins didn’t see the lightning, but he couldn’t miss the smoke that followed.
It was around dinnertime on July 23 at Alaska’s oldest hunting lodge, nestled in the wilderness more than 100 miles northwest of Anchorage. What began as a quiet evening at the Rainy Pass Lodge soon turned frantic as Alaska’s latest wildfire spread fast.
The Alaska National Guard soon evacuated 26 people and two dogs by helicopter from the lodge, which serves as a checkpoint for the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
The fire came within a half-mile of the lodge. In the days that followed, Perrins and his family housed and fed dozens of federal and state firefighters who rushed to contain the blaze — one of many raging across Alaska.
“It’s the hottest summer we’ve had, ever,” said Perrins, who began working at the lodge in 1977.
America’s 49th state is warming faster than any other, having heated up more than 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) over the past century — double the global average. And parts of the state, including its far northern reaches, have warmed even more rapidly in recent decades. [Continue reading…]