Creating Defensible Space Around Structures to Protect from Fires

side by side images showing the reduction of brush to create defensible space
Left: Stampede Mine brush grown up since 2004 before hazard fuels reduction. Right Stamped Mine after hazard fuels reduction.

NPS Photos

The National Park Service (NPS) fire management program conducts hazardous fuel reduction projects around infrastructure, values at risk or near communities adjacent to park lands in order to provide defensible space and to mitigate wildfire hazards. Firewise is the name given to the creation of defensible space by thinning, limbing, or clearing space around infrastructure and structures.

Much of the built environment in Denali was constructed during the 1920s and 1930s. Structures were often built close to the forest edge or the forest has since grown back into the areas disturbed during construction. The photos below show how trees and brush have grown up between 2004, the last time hazard fuels reduction was done, and 2014 at the Stampede Mine; indicating the continued need for fuels reduction.

Hazardous fuels around structures in the developed and backcountry areas of Denali have or are being reduced to create a “defensible space” around the structures. Creating a defensible space includes clearing all flammable vegetation within 30’, and thinning the vegetation that lies within 30’ to 100’ of the structure (cutting some trees, other vegetation; removing lower branches of trees). The defensible space reduces the risk of property damage in the event of a wildland fire and improves safety for visitors, residents, and firefighters.

In 2015, fire management staff improved the defensible space (about 12 acres) at the Concessions housing area, near Park Headquarters and at 5 remote structures northwest of Kantishna by thinning trees and tall shrubs and trimming branches to varying heights from the ground to give a natural appearance. In addition, maintenance treatments to the Toklat Road Camp and the helibase at the McKinley Airstrip were completed in the summer of 2015.

During 2016, the fire staff plans to create or maintain defensible space for the remainder of the Toklat Road Camp complex, portions of CCamp, Headquarters and Concessions housing and near select aviation facilities. This will be the initial treatment for the northern portion of Toklat Road Camp, Concessions housing and the Kantishna Helished and they will then enter a maintenance cycle after this year. Limbing and some cutting/thinning is planned in CCamp, Headquarters and select aviation facilities as part of the cyclic maintenance and improvements to the past hazard fuels projects.

Throughout the defensible space projects, fire staff will provide Denali employees with project updates and other fire information. The fire crew documents hazard fuels thinning around backcountry structures using photos. Learn more by reading the hazard fuel success stories.

Project Name
Date
Acres
Treatment
Comments

 CCamp (Unit 2)

5/13 - 9/17

7.3

Maintain Initial Treatment

Maintain defensible space

 HQ (Unit 9)

5/13 - 9/17

3.3

Maintain Initial Treatment

Maintain defensible space

Concession/JV (Units 1, 6, 7)

10/1 - 10/30/15 & 9/5 - 9/30/16

13.8

Initial Treatment and Maintain Initial Treatment

Create/improve defensible space

Sushana Patrol Cabin

8/1 - 8/16

0.75

Maintain Initial Treament

Maintain defensible space

Lower Savage Patrol Cabin

8/1 - 8/16

0.75

Evaluation

Evaluate need of defensible space

Optional Treatment

CCamp (Unit 1, 3, 4, 5)

5/13 - 9/17

12.7

Maintain Initial Treatment

Maintian defensible space

Concession/JV (Unit 8)

10/1 - 10/30/15 & 9/5 - 9/30/16

1.3

Maintain Initial Treatment

Maintian defensible space

Toklat Road Camp (Units 1, 2, 5 (partial))

5/13 - 9/26

1.5

Initial Treatment and Maintain Initial Treatment

Create/improve defensible space

Lower East Fork Patrol Cabin

8/1 - 8/16

.75

Evaluation

Evaluate need of Defensible Space

Kantishna Helished

5/13 -9/26

.88

Initial treatment

Create defensible space

Murie Science and Learning Center

10/1 - 10/30/15 & 9/5 - 9/30/16

4.36

Initial Treatment and Maintain Initial Treatment

Create/improve defensible space

Evaluations

Collins (12 Mile Slough)

5/31 - 8/20

N/A

Evaluation

Evaluate need of defensible space

Collins Slippery Creek

5/31 - 8/20

N/A

Evaluation

Evaluate need of defensible space

Carlson Slippery Creek

5/31 - 8/20

N/A

Evaluation

Evaluate need of defensible space

Roosevelt

5/31 - 8/20

N/A

Evaluation

Evaluate need of defensible space

Birch Creek

5/31 - 8/20

N/A

Evaluation

Evaluate need of defensible space

New Birch Creek

5/31 - 8/20

N/A

Evaluation

Evaluate need of defensible space