Alaskan trees do not generally grow deep roots because of the perma-frost in the ground. So there are a lot of tree and brush roots near the surface. This makes it easy for wildfires to spread once they start. The fire will smoulder underground, then burst out in another place.
When camping in Alaska parks, they restrict campfires to certain areas so this will not occur. However, if you are in a remote area without any developed campgrounds, and don’t have a camp stove, the best place to build a fire is on a gravel bar in rivers – there are many of these, or in other open, gravelly areas.
This will help ensure no wildfire starts accidentally and will keep you safe while you’re camping in Alaska.
Use dead, downed trees for firewood but never cut a live tree or even standing deadwood, as this is protected in the parks. And of course, dead wood burns easier. A few of the parks have very little firewood laying around. So you can always pick up dead wood in other public land areas and bring it with you. Or purchase it from local stores.
Evergreens, of course, are the fastest and hottest burning woods. Trees like birch, aspen (this one smells terrible when burning), willow, alder and other hard woods are slower burning and harder to start, but will keep a campfire alive all night if you put some on top of a hot bed of coals.
Sometimes, getting a campfire started out in the open is one of the hardest things to do.
Rather than wasting a lot of matches or having to use fuel, there are some easy ways to do it. If there are any birch or spruce trees (or other evergreens) in the area, you have a ready supply of materials.
Birches have a paper thin exterior bark that can be peeled easily and used like paper to start your campfire. If you find birch trees that are fallen, you’ll have a good supply of it. Do NOT peel bark off a live tree however, as that damages it. Usually you can find dead trees to use.
Or even better, is the sap that oozes out of spruces. When it is fresh, it is clear, then turns milky white to yellow as it drys and hardens. If you find any clear sap, just take a small stick and scrape the sap onto it. Place that under the stack of firewood you’ve put in place and light it. It will burn like a torch.
If you have to use the hardened sap, pull it off the tree with a piece of paper or dry leaves and lay it on top of some wood that it can melt on and burn, when you light it. If you happen to get sap on your fingers, rub cooking oil or grease on it to remove it more easily – it is extremely sticky.
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