Ahead of the Fire
By Beth Ipsen, Alaska Fire Service (AFS)
This year’s unusually slow fire season enabled the BLM Alaska Fire Service to start working on protecting the Interior Alaska community of Alatna from future wildfires. The BLM AFS Chena Hotshot Crew and two fire specialists constructed fire breaks on village corporation lands around Alatna this month. The work is the first stage of a multi-year project stemming from the Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) covering Alatna and its neighboring village of Allakaket. In addition to the fuel breaks, the crew removed burnable vegetation around two local cemeteries and cleared out an old ATV trail.
Community members were instrumental in developing the CWPP. This plan identifies and prioritizes areas for hazardous fuel reduction treatments and recommends the types and methods of treatment that will protect communities and essential infrastructure.
Fuels reduction projects like this are among BLM Alaska State Director Chad Padgett’s priorities that fulfill BLM’s multi-use mission and sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The BLM AFS provides wildland ﬁre suppression services for all U.S. Department of the Interior in Alaska and lands conveyed under the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act of 1971 and assists those entities with other ﬁre management activities.
“BLM Alaska strives to partner with residents to come up with ways to not only make their community safer but make it safer for our firefighters in their efforts against devastating wildfires,” Padgett said. “Doing this work now will also reduce the cost of fires in the long run because it will take fewer resources to successfully suppress a wildfire.”
During this effort, more than 500 small woody debris piles were created that will be burned in the winter months. Some of the felled trees were cut up and left as firewood stacked up next to the road for community members. There will be ongoing work over the next several years to fire-wise the community.