Scent of state

Frank Gerjevic

Last week Alaska called at the busy intersection of Eighth Avenue and Bragaw Street.

There, night air was sharply scented by wood smoke and fresh snow.

For me, that's the signature scent of Alaska, home fires' smoke in the cold. It's a unifying scent, connecting Anchorage with Sleetmute and Nikolai, Juneau and Unalakleet.

Now comes word that Fairbanks suffers from too much of this good thing, that hearth fires are fouling the air with fine polluting particles that are hell on lungs.

That leaves air in Fairbanks no better than air in Los Angeles.

Fairbanks faces federal sanctions, and the Fairbanks-North Star Borough has two years to submit a cleanup plan to the state, which will take a year to review it and pass it on to the Environmental Protection Agency. Three years. That takes the edge off any sense of urgency. But they do need a breather in order to comply.

The signature scent needs to be like a woman's perfume -- suggestion on a light caress of air. Hint of home, not respiratory alert.

Talk of regulation doesn't go down well in the Golden Heart. Who wants to be told when and what or if they can burn in their stove or fireplace?

Can't imagine a John Haines book entitled "The Stars, the Snow, the Thermostat." Can't imagine an Alaska without wood smoke.

We'll see what Fairbanks reckons will clear the air in two years. Until then, may Fairbanksans breathe easier with cleansing wind and well-seasoned wood.

-- Frank Gerjevic


Frank Gerjevic