National Park Service, Native Crew Join Forces to Protect Values at Risk

A man makes some adjustments to equipment on a boat along a river.
Staff ready the NPS fire boat in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve.

NPS / Yasunori Matsui

“The NPS fire staff provided logistical supplies and coordination, and Tanana Chiefs Conference [Fire Crew] provided the skilled sawyers and leadership, making it a successful partnership.”
—Jason Devcich, NPS Alaska, Fire Management Program

A slowdown in wildfire activity provided an opportunity for the Tanana Chiefs Conference (TCC) Fire Crew to join with the National Park Service (NPS) Alaska Region Eastern Area Fire Management Program to complete a fuels project in Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve during summer 2014. Busy fire seasons had delayed the project for the past few years.

The TCC hand crew consists mostly of Alaskan Natives tribal members. It is primarily supported by cooperative agreements with the State of Alaska, enabling deployment on wildland fire incidents and work on fuel reduction projects in the Upper Tanana region of Interior Alaska. As time permits, they are also available for work on other projects, such as the NPS project.

“We are glad it worked out to use the TCC crew, as this project is part of a national initiative to use local crews to protect local assets or values at risk to wildfire,” said Jason Devcich, assistant fire management officer, Eastern Area Fire Management Program. “The NPS and TCC signed a cooperative agreement in 2012, and 2014 was the first opportunity we had to work together to complete the project.”

Logistically, the project had its fair share of challenges. It required three NPS boats and a Type 3 helicopter to shuttle three NPS fire employees and 19 TCC firefighters with supplies to the remote 160-acre Biederman Allotment. To create a 50-foot shaded fuel break on NPS lands surrounding the allotment, the crew cut spruce trees and brush and limbed standing trees to six feet. They successfully created defensible space around the allotment and focused their efforts only in areas where the fuel conditions warranted.

Three 16-hour days of cutting trees resulted in 237 piles to be burned at a later date in the nearly 5-acre treatment area. The crew also left several cords of firewood on-site for public use.

“While the NPS fire staff provided logistical supplies and coordination, TCC provided the skilled sawyers and leadership, making it a successful partnership,” Devcich said.

“The TCC Fire Crew would like to thank Eastern Area Fire Management for the opportunity to work together,” said James Ludecker, TCC Fire Crew supervisor. “This project gave the crew the opportunity to work alongside NPS staff on a common mission--to use local assets to protect identified values at risk. NPS professionalism made the Biederman Allotment project a success. The TCC Fire Crew would encourage and be willing to partner with NPS on future projects.”

Contact: Jason Devcich, assistant fire management officer, Eastern Area Fire Management Program
Email: e-mail us
Phone: (907) 455-0650

Last updated: December 15, 2017