Letter to the editor

Dec. 13, 2012

To the editor:

The perfect storm has hit Fairbanks this winter. It’s not weeks on end of minus 50 degree temperatures or five feet of snow during a three-day period or even an ice storm from hell like we had two years ago. Those storms Farbanksans can cope with. This storm I’m referring to is just as deadly, no, perhaps even more deadly in our lifetime.

This storm has its own set of unique factors: 1. A colder-than-average start to the winter. 2. Strong inversions. 3. The high cost of heating oil, forcing thousands of people to burn firewood. 4. A lot more firewood.

If you happen to live in a low-lying area, the factors are further compounded. Colder air, stronger inversions and cords and cords of more firewood to burn, thus a lot more polluted air. All this leads to a lot more air quality alerts.

The dangers of particulate pollution may take years to show their effects on our long-term health. I doubt we’ll ever see a professional endurance athlete come out of the Badger Road area.

On top of this, every thief not stealing heating oil is cutting green trees on our forest and selling them as seasoned firewood. This is wood from trees that weren’t part of a commercial timber sale, wood that was a standing tree yesterday, wood from the Tanana Valley State Forest, which belongs to all Alaskans. They’re selling you stolen goods, a product that hurts the business of legal firewood cutters. Tree theft in other parts of the country often ends badly. Sometimes it’s settled with a .44 slug.

The high price of heating oil makes homeowners turn to wood. Firewood is the most economical way to heat our houses. And when it’s dry, it makes a fuel that is fairly clean. Cutting it, stacking it and storing it for a year will make a difference, hopefully one we can make before we all end up on iron lung machines.

Oh and yes, I will support a volunteer wood burning reduction to reduce smoke production on high-pollution days. This makes sense.