Fire Stories

Fire stories from the national parks highlight events, incidents, and the like, associated with fire and fuels management, as well as fire education, technology, partnerships, and more. Stories highlight work related to Department of the Interior initiatives as well as local and regional initiatives.

Alaskan Natives and AK NPS Eastern Area Fire Management Remove Hazard Trees from Historic
Mining District

Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, Alaska

During the 2004 Alaska fire season over 6.7 million acres burned, the most acres burned since fire reporting began in the 1950's. A national Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation (BAER) team traveled to Alaska following the 2004 fire season to assess the potential need for emergency stabilization work on burned lands. Due to the number of fires and immense acreage burned, the BAER team could not assess all affected lands, including the 14,904 acre Woodchopper Fire in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve (YUCH). Having burned into the Coal Creek drainage, an historic (1901-1977) gold mine district known for its dredging operation, NPS Eastern Area Fire Management (EAFM) and Regional fire staff worked with the BAER team to identify several concerns, in particular, the hazard tree removal assessment and stabilization work for the area trails impacted by the fire and develop projects to address the concerns in 2005.

Of the 10 miles of old mining trails in the Coal Creek drainage, 4.5 lie within the Woodchopper Fire perimeter. On May 19, 2005 EAFM staff determined that 5000 plus hazard trees existed along the trails. EAFM defined a hazard tree as any fire weakened, killed and/or structurally damaged tree within two tree lengths of the trail.

Because of the significant workload to remove the hazard trees, EAFM developed a contract with the Tanana Chiefs Conference to use timber fallers from Eagle Village, a native village, to clear hazard trees. Eagle Village lies 12 Yukon River miles south of the preserve boundary.

Coal Creek drainage, a remote area in YUCH, is accessible during the summer months by plane or boat. Thanks to the YUCH operated boat, six tree fellers and EAFM Forestry Technician, James Savage, traveled to and from Coal Creek via the Yukon River. From June 20–27, 2005 the crew cleared hazard trees along 4.5 miles of trails.

Through this unique partnership between the NPS and Eagle Village residents, one crew member was able to revisit a part of his own family's history. His father worked at the Coal Creek mine in the early 1950's. Having successfully completed the project, the crew also created a safe environment for the public to enjoy the gold mining history of Coal Creek once again.

Learn more information about the Coal Creek Dredge on the YUCH website.

Contact: Morgan Miller, Regional Fire Education, Prevention and Information Specialist
Phone: (907) 683-6423