Alaska: The Fire War

From all appearances Fort Wainwright Field outside of Fairbanks might have been launching World War II bombing runs. Antique B-25s, the first U.S. planes to raid Tokyo, lumbered down the runway as old Liberator bombers tested their engines for takeoff. The planes were engaged in a different kind of warfare. More than 2.8 million acres of Alaska's timber and tundra—an area more than twice the size of Delaware —have burned this year. The planes' mission: dropping chemicals to slow the fires' advance.

Like everything else in the nation's biggest state, disaster was...

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