In Alaska, we were able to breathe easy this past summer. If rainy, at least it wasn't smoky for most of us. We were all painfully aware of the fires that swept through the Western U.S. and Canada. Families endured dense smoke in downtown Seattle. We watched in horror as the California fires consumed entire neighborhoods. One of my staff flew south to help his mother evacuate from her home as fires raged. And fire is not a stranger to Alaska forests and neighborhoods. Those of us who have been around for a few years remember many smoky summers and fires that have burned homes and neighborhoods. Three years ago, fires swept through a number of properties owned by The Nature Conservancy with loss of several historic homestead cabins. Unfortunately, as our climate changes, we can expect bigger, more frequent, and more intense fires across Alaska. Climate scientists at the University of Alaska Fairbanks have predicted this trend and the fires are proving them right. [Warming, fires, warming, fires: How tundra fires can create an unstoppable cycle] As the U.S. fights wildfires across the country, the federal government is burning through money that could instead go toward making forests healthier — and less fire prone. At a price tag of more than $2.4 billion so far, the government has spent more money fighting fires this year than in any other wildfire season on record. Fires have already burned more than 8.8 million acres this year, according to the National Interagency Fire Center, and large fires are still blazing in many states, particularly in the West. The Pitka Fork Fire burning 60 miles east of McGrath puts up smoke on Tuesday, June 6, 2017. (Matt Snyder/ Alaska Department of Natural Resources / Department of Forestry) Not all wildfires are bad or need to be put out, especially in Alaska where many fires burn in remote areas. When fires are part of a forest's natural cycle, they can actually help plants and animals. Fires have always been a part of the natural cycle for the boreal forests of Interior Alaska. But when conditions are warmer and drier, when branches and moss become tinder dry, fires grow bigger and hotter. They become megafires that destroy