6 Hurt in Lightning Strike at PGA Tour Championship 

Six people were injured Saturday when lightning struck a 60-foot pine at the Tour Championship where they were taking cover from rain and showered them with debris, Atlanta police said. 

A pine tree is stripped of bark after being hit by lightning at East Lake Golf Club during the third round of the Tour Championship golf tournament, Aug. 24, 2019, in Atlanta.

The third round of the season-ending PGA Tour event at East Lake Golf Club had been suspended for about 30 minutes because of storms in the area, and fans were instructed to seek shelter. The strike hit the top of the tree just off the 16th tee and shattered the bark all the way to the bottom. 

Ambulances streamed into the private club about 6 miles east of downtown Atlanta. The players already had been taken into the clubhouse before the lightning hit. 

Brad Uhl of Atlanta was among those crammed under a hospital tent to the right of the 16th hole that was open to the public. 

“There was just a big explosion and then an aftershock so strong you could feel the wind from it,” Uhl said after the last of the ambulances pulled out of the golf course. “It was just a flash out of the corner of the eye.” 

Atlanta police spokesman James H. White III said five men and one female juvenile were injured in the lightning strike. He said they were taken to hospitals for further treatment, all of them alert, conscious and breathing. 

The PGA Tour canceled the rest of golf Saturday, with the round to resume at 8 a.m. Sunday, followed by the final round. 

Last week at the BMW Championship in the Chicago suburbs, Phil Mickelson was delayed getting to the golf course when lightning struck the top of his hotel, causing a precautionary evacuation. 


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Global Warming Increases Threat of Himalayas’ Killer Lakes

When a “Himalayan tsunami” roars down from the rooftop of the world, water from an overflowing glacial lake obeys gravity. Obliterating everything in its path, a burst is predictable only in its destructiveness. 
 
“There was no meaning in it,” one person who withstood the waters in India’s Himalayas told a Public Radio International reporter. “It didn’t give anyone a chance to survive.”  
 
Christian Huggel, a professor at the University of Zurich in Switzerland who specializes in glaciology and geomorphodynamics (the study of changing forms of geologic surfaces), said thousands of cubic meters of water moving down a mountain “is really quite destructive and it can happen suddenly.” 
 
That water comes from glacial lake outburst floods, or GLOFs, which are increasing in frequency as climate change increases the rate of glacial melting. This catastrophic lake drainage occurs wherever there are glaciers in places such as Peru and Alaska.  
 
The most devastating GLOFs occur in the Himalayan regions of India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Myanmar, Nepal and the Tibetan Plateau. When combined, the area has the third-largest accumulation of snow and ice after Antarctica and the Arctic. 
 
Melting glaciers 
 
In the Himalayas, climate change melted glaciers by a vertical foot and half of ice each year from 2000 to 2016, according to a study released in June’s Science Advances by Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in Palisades, N.Y.  
 
That is twice the rate of melting from 1975 to 2000.  
 
Local people have noticed the change. In a 2016 interview from the Everest basecamp, Dr. Nima Namgyal Sherpa told VOA that in the past, the glacial streams in the mid-Everest region started flowing in May, but the Sherpas now see the flow beginning in April. 
 
That melted snowpack seeps down to fill mountainside indentations to form glacial lakes. As global warming accelerates the melting, the lakes are expanding, as is their number and threat, monitored in some areas with automated sensors and manual early warning systems by army and police personnel with communication gear. 
 
“Bigger lakes may increase the risk of catastrophic dam failure,” Joseph Shea, a glacier hydrologist at the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon, Canada, told the magazine Science.  
 

The retreating ice of the Pastoruri glacier is seen in the Huascaran National Park in Huaraz, Peru, Aug. 12, 2016. The melting of glaciers has put cities like Huaraz at risk of what scientists call a “glof,” or glacial lake outburst flood.

Today, there are more than a thousand glacial lakes on the Tibetan Plateau, with more than 130 larger than 0.1 square kilometer in Nepal alone. The lakes threaten the livelihoods and lives of tens of thousands of people who live in some of the world’s most remote areas.
 
On June 12, 2016, a GLOF near Mount Everest sent 2 million cubic meters of water toward the Nepalese village of Chukhung, which lost just one outhouse to the torrents, in part because scientists warned residents in the area about the approaching danger. 
 
Weeks later, on July 5, a GLOF near the village of Chaku registered on seismometers, which had been installed after an earthquake the year before, as a “huge pulse of energy,” Kristen Cook, a geologist at the GFZ German Research Center for Geosciences, told EOS, an online site that covers earth and space science news.
 
Examining satellite images, Cook and her colleagues found the GLOF moved boulders as large as 6 meters in diameter. 
 
Early warning systems 
 
This year, on July 7, a GLOF early warning system of weather monitoring stations and river discharge sensors saved lives in Pakistan’s Golain Valley, which has more than 50 glaciers and nine glacial lakes.  
 
The event destroyed villages, roads and bridges, but there were no reported deaths. A shepherd located upstream from the valley called authorities to report the burst, which gave communities downstream as much as an hour to evacuate.  
 
“Our standing crops [and] apple and apricot orchards have been completely destroyed,” Safdar Ali, whose shop was heavily damaged as the water swept away livestock, stored grain, irrigation channels and micro hydropower plants, told Reuters.  
 
“I see no loss of human life this time as a positive,” Amanullah Khan, assistant country director for the U.N. Development Program (UNDP) told Reuters. “It shows our training has been a success.”  
 
The UNDP program, which helped establish flood protection systems in the area starting in 2011, has installed small-scale drainage systems and mini-dams, and taught people in the remote region survival skills, such as simple first aid, because the arrival of skilled emergency help can be delayed by the rugged topography. 
 
The International Center for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) and other international groups are setting up early warning systems for glacial lakes in Nepal. 
 
Local governments are taking preventive measures, such as removing loose rocks and debris that make the bursts of water even more destructive. Authorities are also draining glacial lakes to reduce the amount of water released by a breach, and they are discouraging settlement in GLOF hazard zones.  
 
“If the lakes burst above the villages up in the Everest area, up between 12,000 to 13,000 feet, there are villages all the way downstream and they will wipe [away] some of these villages,” said Norbu Tenzin Norgyal, whose father, Sherpa Tenzin Norgyal, summited Mount Everest with Sir Edmund Hillary in 1953. “The danger is real.” 


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Thousands of Congolese Refugees in Angola Head Home to DRC’s Kasai

The U.N. refugee agency said Saturday that 8,500 refugees from the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s Kasai province had spontaneously abandoned their camp in Angola and were heading to the homes they fled more than one year ago. 

The march home from the Lovua settlement in Angola’s Lunda Norte province began one week ago.  U.N. refugee spokesman Andrej Mahecic said more than 1,000 refugees already had crossed into DRC and many more were moving toward the border with DRC’s Kasai region. 

“This appears to be in response to reports of improved security in some of their places of origin,” Mahecic said. “It is also linked to their wish to return, as well as to be back home in time for the beginning of the new school year.” 

Displaced by violence

Violence broke out in the Kasai region in August 2016, triggered by tensions between traditional chiefs and the government.  Deadly clashes intensified between the government and armed groups in March 2017, displacing about 1.4 million people from their homes.  An estimated 37,000 others fled across the border into Angola in search of refuge. 
 
Mahecic told VOA the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees was engaged in tripartite discussions with Angolan and Congolese authorities to make sure this refugee return movement was well-organized and sustainable.   
 
“The key point for us is to make sure there is proper planning and transport,” he said. “That is why we have engaged both governments on setting up a system where this can be planned, and the transport can be facilitated for those who wish to return home.  And that is the key factor.  The refugees themselves are the ones making that decision.”  

Staff members along routes
 
Mahecic said UNHCR staff members were placed along the return routes to monitor the condition of people arriving and to assess the nature of these spontaneous returns.  He said staff members were on hand to provide immediate help and to get firsthand information about the type of assistance the refugees would need when they returned home. 

He added that not everyone was on the move.  He noted most of the Congolese refugees remained in Angola.  He said the UNHCR would continue to monitor the situation to make sure those who returned to their homes in Kasai were doing so voluntarily. 


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Afghan Taliban Say Peace Deal With US in Sight

The Taliban said Saturday that they expected negotiations with the United States to conclude the following day, finalizing a peace deal to end the 18-year-old war in Afghanistan. 

The crucial ninth round in the yearlong dialogue between the two adversaries started Thursday in the traditional venue, the Persian Gulf state of Qatar. Afghan-born U.S. diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad is leading the American team of negotiators.
 
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told VOA on Saturday that the two sides were fleshing out details of a mechanism for U.S.-led foreign troops to withdraw from the country. 

‘We are hopeful’
 
“Inshallah [God willing], this time we are hopeful that each and every thing will be finalized. Work is underway to streamline the mechanism, but there is no such sticking point left that is not agreeable,” Mujahid said. 
 
He said the “mechanism” would outline the nature of an American troop drawdown, areas where it will begin and the duration needed to complete the process. 
 
Mujahid said Taliban and American negotiators would require “one more day” to shape up the details. He spoke to VOA just before the two sides resumed a third day of discussions Saturday night in Doha, Qatar. Mujahid would not discuss the foreign troop withdrawal timeline, nor has the American side shared specifics.  

FILE – Taliban negotiator Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanekzai attends a conference arranged by the Afghan diaspora, in Moscow, Feb. 5, 2019.

Pro-Taliban media outlets, meanwhile, released a video message Saturday from the head of the insurgent negotiating team, Sher Muhammad Abbas Stanekzai, claiming his group had brought U.S. and its NATO allies “on their knees” in war. 
 
“I believe that Americans will leave Afghanistan very soon. Americans stand defeated and Afghanistan will again be liberated,” Stanekzai said while addressing his colleagues in the Qatar office just days before he entered into the current round of talks with American interlocutors. 

Stanekzai’s assertions strengthen fears that the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces would embolden the Taliban, and that the insurgents may not uphold their commitments.

Khalilzad plans to travel to Kabul after finishing the talks with the Taliban in Doha, reportedly to share details of the agreement with the Afghan leadership. 
 
Taliban political spokesman Suahil Shaheen, in a recent interview, told VOA the final agreement with the U.S. would be signed in the presence of international guarantors, including Russia, China, Pakistan and other neighbors of Afghanistan, as well as the United Nations. 
 
The U.S.-Taliban deal reportedly could mean the withdrawal of all 20,000 foreign troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2020. 

Residual force
 
Within the first few months, Washington would bring down the number of American forces to about 8,600 from roughly 14,000 now. The residual military force reportedly would remain in Afghanistan to ensure the Taliban are living up to their part of the commitments outlined in the agreement. 
 
Taliban officials have said the deal being negotiated with the U.S. would require the insurgent group to open a peace process with Afghan stakeholders to discuss a cease-fire or reduction in attacks against government forces and matters related to future political governance. 
 
U.S. officials say the Taliban also would be bound to prevent al-Qaida from establishing a safe haven in insurgent-controlled Afghan areas, and to help defeat Islamic State terrorists in the country. 
 
The Afghan branch of Islamic State has intensified its deadly attacks in the country lately, raising questions about whether a U.S.-Taliban deal could end violence in Afghanistan. Last week, Islamic State claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing at a wedding ceremony in Kabul that killed more than 80 people and injured about 160 others. Almost all the victims were civilians. 
 
President Donald Trump has been a strong critic of U.S. involvement in overseas wars. He promised during his 2016 presidential campaign that he would extricate America from international conflicts. 
 
Trump appears to be eager to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan before next year’s presidential election. 

Afghan leader

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s aides have said a U.S.-Taliban deal must lead to a cease-fire and direct peace talks between the government and insurgents. 
 
Ghani, who is seeking re-election in the presidential vote set for Sept. 28, told a campaign rally in Kabul this week that his administration was determined to hold the election because only an elected government could represent Afghans in peace talks with the Taliban. 
 
The insurgent group refuses to engage in any talks with the government in Kabul, however, dismissing them as American puppets and an outcome of the “foreign invasion” of Afghanistan. The intra-Afghan talks, if and when they start, will include government officials among the delegates representing the Afghan society, but they will not participate as government representatives, Mujahid reiterated Saturday. 


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Virginia Marks 400th Anniversary of Slave Ship Arrival 

Virginia Governor Ralph Northam announced Saturday a new state commission to review educational standards for teaching black history in the state, as officials observed the arrival of enslaved Africans to what is now Virginia 400 years ago. 
 
Northam, who noted “we are a state that for too long has told a false story of ourselves,” spoke at the 2019 African Landing Commemorative Ceremony in Hampton. The event was part of a weekend of ceremonies that are unfolding in the backdrop of rising white nationalism across the country and a lingering scandal surrounding Northam and a blackface photo.  

Virginia’s Gov. Ralph Northam speaks at the 2019 African Landing Commemorative Ceremony, observing the 400-year anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Virginia, in Hampton, Va., Aug. 24, 2019.

Northam said he signed a directive to create the commission to review instructional practices, content and resources currently used to teach African American history in the state.  
  
“We often fail to draw the connecting lines from those past events to our present day, but to move forward, that is what we must do,” said Northam, a Democrat. “We know that racism and discrimination aren’t locked in the past. They weren’t solved with the Civil Rights Act. They didn’t disappear. They merely evolved.” 
 
In February, Northam faced intense pressure to resign after a racist picture surfaced from his 1984 medical school yearbook page. He denied being in the picture but admitted to wearing blackface as a young man while portraying Michael Jackson at a dance party in the 1980s. 
 
On Saturday, Northam said he has met with people around the state over the past several months to listen to views about inequities that still exist, prompting him to confront “some painful truths.” 
 
“Among those truths was my own incomplete understanding regarding race and equity,” Northam said. “I have learned a great deal from those discussions, and I have more to learn, but I also learned that the more I know, the more I can do.” 


1619 Town Hall HOUSE video player.
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VOA Town Hall Looks at Legacy of Slavery in US

The event was held on Chesapeake Bay, where ships traded men and women from what’s now Angola for supplies from English colonists. The landing in August 1619 is considered a pivotal moment that presaged a system of race-based slavery. 
 
“The legacy of racism continues not just in isolated incidents, but as part of a system that touches every person and every aspect of our lives, whether we know it or not, and if we’re serious about righting the wrong that began here at this place, we need to do more than talk,” Northam said. “We need to take action.” 
 
U.S. Representative Karen Bass, a California Democrat who chairs the Congressional Black Caucus and attended the event, said it was important to hear the truth about the nation’s past, “not just the parts that make us feel good, but the difficult parts as well.” 
 
“The sad thing about our nation and why we continue to have the issues we do is because we have denied part of our history, and I believe that if the entire nation could experience, could learn and understand our true and full history, we might not be witnessing the resurrection of hate,” Bass said. 
 

Members of the Africa Queen Mothers participate in a sunrise service and spiritual cleansing ceremony in remembrance of the 400-year anniversary of the arrival of the first enslaved Africans in Virginia, in Hampton, Va., Aug. 24, 2019.

Saturday’s event is one of several commemorating the arrival. A family that traces its roots to the Africans gathered at a cemetery Friday. A bell will ring at the landing spot during Sunday’s “Healing Day.” 
 
Bells also are scheduled to ring Sunday in Vicksburg National Military Park — a Civil War battleground in Mississippi — as well as during events in Alabama. 


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Rohingya Reject Plans They Voluntarily Return to Myanmar

Two years ago, Myanmar’s army drew international condemnation for driving more than 750,000 Muslim Rohingya into neighboring Bangladesh. This week the Myanmar and Bangladesh governments announced the beginning of a voluntary repatriation plan for many, however not a single person volunteered to go back. Steve Sandford spoke to refugees and rights workers about the prospect of returning home amid security and rights concerns.
 


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Trump and Macron Agree Russia Should Join G-8 in 2020 But Will It?

Will Russia join next year’s G-7 summit? The question is being considered after U.S. President Donald Trump raised the idea ahead of the group’s annual summit this week in France. The group voted to suspend Moscow’s membership in 2014 after it annexed Crimea, which Russia continues to hold. Trump says it’s time for them to rejoin. Anna Rice reports on whether that’s likely to happen.
 


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Development Agencies Welcome Trump’s Retreat from Foreign Aid Cuts

President Donald Trump has abandoned his fight with Congress over slashing $4 billion in foreign aid and will allow the appropriated funds to be spent. But the State Department says it agreed with the White House to “redirect all funding that does not directly support our priorities.” VOA Diplomatic Correspondent Cindy Saine has more from Washington.
 


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US, China Boost Tariffs on Each Other; Trump ‘Always Open to Talks’

VOA State Department Correspondent Nike Ching contributed to this report.

WHITE HOUSE — The trade war between Washington and Beijing further escalated Friday.

The United States will additionally hike tariffs on Chinese products, President Donald Trump announced.

Terming China’s announcement Friday of additional tariffs on $75 billion worth of American products “politically motivated,” Trump said he is retaliating by increasing the 25% tax, effective October 1, on $250 billion on goods of products from China to 30%.

Additionally, Trump announced on Twitter, the tariffs on the remaining $300 billion of Chinese goods to be imposed September 1 will rise from the 10% level to 15%.

….Sadly, past Administrations have allowed China to get so far ahead of Fair and Balanced Trade that it has become a great burden to the American Taxpayer. As President, I can no longer allow this to happen! In the spirit of achieving Fair Trade, we must Balance this very….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019

…Additionally, the remaining 300 BILLION DOLLARS of goods and products from China, that was being taxed from September 1st at 10%, will now be taxed at 15%. Thank you for your attention to this matter!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019

Trade talks between the United States and China are tentatively set to resume next month in Washington.

VOA asked Trump Friday night if he still wanted those negotiations to proceed.

“At this moment they want to do that,” the president replied before he boarded the Marine One helicopter for the start of his trip to the G-7 leaders’ summit in France. “I’m always open to talks.”

FILE – China Shipping Company containers are stacked at the Virginia International’s terminal in Portsmouth, Va., May 10, 2019.

Ordering companies to leave China

Hours earlier, Trump declared he is “ordering” American companies “to immediately start looking for alternatives to China” after Beijing announced it is raising tariffs on $75 billion of U.S. goods and resuming 25% tariffs on American autos, in retaliation against Trump’s September 1 duty increase.

In a series of tweets, the U.S. president said the companies should bring their manufacturing home. 

Our Country has lost, stupidly, Trillions of Dollars with China over many years. They have stolen our Intellectual Property at a rate of Hundreds of Billions of Dollars a year, & they want to continue. I won’t let that happen! We don’t need China and, frankly, would be far….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019

Asked, as he departed the White House, under what authority he could do that, Trump told reporters to look up the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, enacted in 1977, which authorizes the president to regulate international commerce after declaring a national emergency in response to extraordinary threats originating outside the United States.

“I have the absolute right to do that,” Trump stated.

FILE – Federal Reserve Board Chair Jerome Powell speaks at a news conference following a two-day meeting of the Federal Open Market Committee, May 1, 2019, in Washington.

Markets drop

The escalating trade war unsettled markets Friday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average of the New York Stock Exchange closed down more than 620 points, a loss of 2.37%.

Trump, before boarding the helicopter Friday night, brushed off the plunge in share prices, saying that since the time of his November 2016 election “we’re up 50 percent or more.”

Trump, earlier on Twitter, also criticized Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell, both before and after he made a closely watched speech at the institution’s annual symposium in the state of Wyoming.

Powell indicated that the Federal Reserve, which cut interest rates last month for the first time in a decade, is willing to make another reduction to keep the U.S. economy growing, but he did not specify the amount or the timing of such action.

That angered the president, who tweeted: “As usual, the Fed did NOTHING! It is incredible that they can speak’ without knowing or asking what I am doing, which will be announced shortly.” The president then added: “My only question is, who is our bigger enemy, Jay Powell or (Chinese Communist Party) Chairman Xi?”

Xi is also China’s president.

Our Country has lost, stupidly, Trillions of Dollars with China over many years. They have stolen our Intellectual Property at a rate of Hundreds of Billions of Dollars a year, & they want to continue. I won’t let that happen! We don’t need China and, frankly, would be far….

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 23, 2019

Trump has repeatedly referred to Xi as a friend and touted his relationship with Xi as a way to achieve significant breakthroughs on trade and other major issues.

China’s commerce ministry, earlier Friday, stated it will be imposing additional tariffs of 5% or 10% on a total of 5,078 products originating from the U.S., including agricultural products, crude oil, small aircraft and cars.

Chinese tariffs on some U.S. products would take effect September 1 and on others December 15.

“America’s manufacturing workers will bear the brunt of these retaliatory tariffs, which will make it even harder to sell the products they make to customers in China,” said Jay Timmons, the president and chief executive officer of the National Association of Manufacturers.

“While we share the president’s frustration, we believe that continued, constructive engagement is the right way forward,” said Myron Brilliant, executive vice president and head of international affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. “Time is of the essence. We do not want to see a further deterioration of U.S.-China relations.”

Rick Helfenbein, president and CEO of the American Apparel and Footwear Association, said: “This is not how you negotiate. This is tit-for-tat exercise that is hurting Americans and distracting from the task at hand — creating a sustainable trade agreement that solves long-standing and deep-seated issues.”

“The administration needs to rise above the fray and start negotiating for the American people,” Helfenbein added.

Analysts are expressing fears that if there is no truce soon in the trade war with China, it could lead to a recession in the United States.

However, Trump is holding firm to his policies.

“Our economy is doing great. We’re having a little spat with China and we’ll win it …” he said Friday night. Adding, “I think that our tariffs are working out very well for us, people don’t understand that yet…”

“We’re not going to lose close to a trillion dollars a year to China,” Trump told reporters Friday. “This is more important than anything else right now, just about, that we’re working on.”
 


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51 Homes, 3 Businesses Lost in Alaska Wildfire

A wildfire burning north of Anchorage has destroyed 51 homes and three businesses, officials said Friday.

Another 84 buildings between the communities of Willow and Talkeetna, about 70 miles north of the state’s largest city, also have been destroyed, fire information manager Kale Casey said.

Hundreds of people have been evacuated because of the fire that started Sunday night along the Parks Highway, the main thoroughfare that connects Anchorage to Denali National Park and Preserve and Fairbanks. 

The exact cause of the fire is under investigation, but officials have said it was human-caused.

Homeowners at one of two evacuation centers had closed-door meetings Friday with officials from the Matanuska-Susitna Borough to learn the fate of their homes, Casey said. Others who were not at evacuation centers have not been notified.

The wildlife is one of two major blazes in Alaska.

The fire had blackened nearly 6 square miles (16 sq. kilometers) and was 10% contained, said Tim Mowry, a spokesman for the Alaska Division of Forestry. 

About 100 firefighters, 20 engine crews and three helicopters were fighting the fire, he said. Another 100 firefighters were expected to arrive Sunday.

“They’re dropping water and retardant on and around it, but we really need people on the ground to reinforce those aerial assets,” Mowry said.

Conditions were dry, giving the fire ample fuel, Casey said. A forecast of increased winds for Saturday has fire managers on edge, and additional residents were told to be ready to evacuate if needed.

“With conditions so dry in this area, a 15 mph (24 kph) wind is a significant event,” Casey said. “The ground fuels are extremely resistant to control.”

Alaska’s fire season is usually over by now, but hot, dry conditions have extended it. Alaska recorded its warmest month ever in July.

It’s unusual for firefighters to be sent to Alaska from other states this time of the year.

“Usually, our crews are in the Lower 48 by now, helping out there,” Mowry said.

Another large wildfire is burning south of Anchorage, in Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. It started in June but was reinvigorated. It had burned about 222 square miles (575 square kilometers) and was 20% contained.

Smoke from the two fires has made Anchorage smoky, prompting health warnings and leading schools to cancel outdoor activities.


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