Yesterday I drove out the road to Chiniak to do some survey work in the area that got burned in last fall's fire (click here for news story). I went out there expecting a few burned trees, and to see a recovering forest. I was not expecting a complete waste land of dead trees.
The fire burned through the tree crowns and had killed all the trees. The main fuel was dry moss and all the moss in the trees and on the ground was consumed. Even though it was a quick and fast-moving fire it killed all the trees over a vast area because Sitka Spruce is very intolerant of fire. These are not the Southern Yellow Pines of Georgia that can withstand a yearly burn of the undergrowth.
The scene reminded me of spring in a forest of Larch trees. Larch trees are 'pines' that loose their needles every winter. The bright green of the new ferns and salmonberries contrasted sharply with the black, charred trunks and brown dead needles.
My photos do not do it justice - I couldn't capture the crowns and the ground and the vastness of the dead forest. The tops looked too small if I tried to capture both the tops and the ground, and I could not keep the trunks parallel. Maybe if I had climbed a tree and tried a panoramic from half way up? Patrick