When NASA’s Aqua satellite passed over eastern Alaska and western Yukon Territory, Canada, on June 29, 2004, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) captured this awesome image of dozens of large wildfires belching huge columns of smoke as forests went up in flames. Areas where MODIS detected actively burning fires are outlined in red. A large number of the fires are burning in a region called the Yukon Flats, a vast floodplain of the northern reaches of the Yukon River. The flats are located between the Alaska Range Mountains to the south and the Brooks Range to the north, both of which are largely hidden by smoke in this scene.
Many of these fires, including the 200,000-plus-acre Solstice Complex Fire located north of the “hump” in the Yukon River, were triggered during several days of extreme lightning activity. Small-scale evacuations occurred in some small towns and villages in the region, and sections of the Alaska Highway have been closed off and on. Reports from the Alaska Fire Service on June 29 indicated there were 57 large fires burning in the state. So far this season, 327 fires have affected nearly 840,000 acres.
In Alaska, the landscape is already changing over to its fall wardrobe, with summerâ€™s green being traded for brown and gold. Fires, some of which have been burning since before the beginning of summer, were still smoldering on September 7, 2004.