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.

NPS Southeast Region Conducts Second Annual Fire Interpretation Workshop

Noatak National Preserve & Kobuk Valley National Park, Alaska
National Fire Plan, Fuels Reduction*

Giddings Cabin in Noatak National Preserve before (top), and after (bottom) Firewise project.

During the summer of 2009, Western Area Fire Management completed two inaugural Firewise projects in Noatak National Preserve (NOAT) and Kobuk Valley National Park (KOVA). Park staff chose the Kelly River Ranger Station in NOAT and the Giddings cabin at Onion Portage archeological site in KOVA for several reasons.

Located in the flammable boreal forest, the 1985 Kelly River Ranger Station sits in a remote area where historically large fires have occurred. Rangers staff the station at least 30 days a year and approximately 75 travelers (mainly recreational boaters and hunters) visit it annually. The combination of fire occurrence, a remote station, and visitors, shouted watch out to staff and made this project a top priority.

The Giddings cabin at Onion Portage archeological site is highly valued because of its contributions to archeology and anthropology in Northwestern Alaska. A National Historic Landmark, Onion Portage is one of the most important Alaskan sites for documenting the progression of cultural change over time. J. Louis Giddings discovered the site in 1941 and with a student and crew of local residents found 8 layers of human occupation dating over 10,000 years. In 1964 local Inupiat residents constructed the cabin, cache, and cold storage structure for Giddings and his crew. Nestled in the boreal forest, in 1971 the Ambler fire came within 1.5 miles of the site. Park staff restored the cabin in 2007 but the boreal forest encroached upon it, providing significant fuel for a fire that could threaten it.

Kelly River Ranger Station before (top), and after (bottom) Firewise project.

Fire staff made the structures Firewise in an effort to protect them and create a safe area for firefighters to work in the event of wildfire. Staff removed most of the combustible vegetation within 30 feet of the structures, thinned vegetation within the 30 to 100 foot range, limbed trees and increased tree spacing. The cut debris was stacked into piles and will be burned in the spring of 2010.

Firewise projects are critical to the protection of people and park resources. Fire management thanks the parks for their support and looks forward to future Firewise opportunities in Northernwestern Alaska.

Contact: Charlie Reynar, Assistant Fire Management Officer
Phone: (907) 683-9549

*This story supports Department of the Interior initiatives.