With white mist floating between trees on the hillside forest, it was natural for me to assume that the smoke from a tree fire was harmless fog. It didn’t even cause an eagle to abandon its roost in a nearby spruce tree. That’s why Aki and I walked past it on our walk around the Mendenhall Peninsula.
Just before we turned the corner a curious seal swam up the river toward us. He appeared to look at something over my shoulder so I turned back to see a tan plume of smoke mix with the white. It didn’t take long to find the source. At the base of a tall, straight spruce, where its roots wrapped around a great granite block, a crackling fire burned. While its flames chewed away at the tree’s trunk., the fire sent streams of white smoke through the small animal tunnels that honeycombed the moss covered forest floor.I hurried the dog back to the trailhead and called 911 on a borrowed cell phone. When I left, the authorities were working out what agency was responsible for the fire while it charred the 200-year-old tree unchecked.