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.

Community Meeting in McCarthy Paves Way to Sound Relationships

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

Erick Veach, Wrangell-St. Elias Chief of Natural Resources thanks McCarthy residents for their support of the firefighters.

On July 22, 2009, residents of the small Alaskan community of McCarthy gathered to meet with officials working on the Chakina Fire, a wildland fire ignited by lightning on July 2 and burning roughly 10 miles south of town. The meeting provided a firsthand update on the fire's activity and what crews were accomplishing on the fire line and in the community. Recognizing the community's interest in potential impacts to local developed areas, recreation and tourism, getting information to the public has been a high priority to those working on the fire.

Incident Commander Mike Trimmer used large maps, photos, and other materials to illustrate fire movement, describe fire management objectives and provide information on fuel reduction work being done by crews to protect residents and their homes. Many of the public's comments and questions were based on existing knowledge the community had about fire in their local area. Thanks to educational efforts by the National Park Service and the Kennicott/McCarthy and Strelna volunteer fire departments, local residents had an understanding of the ecological significance of the fire, including it importance to improving wildlife habitat and recreational opportunities for the future.

Incident Commander Mike Trimmer provides information on fire activity and crew accomplishments.

The Chakina Fire currently poses little threat to the community and local interest has focused on individual property owners and the importance of creating defensible space around homes and other structures. In addition, the fire has provided an opportunity for the community to prepare for future emergencies. Officials discussed the development of a Public Preparedness and Emergency Notification Plan to aid the community should another large fire threaten McCarthy and developed areas along the McCarthy Road. The plan outlines a process to disseminate information quickly so residents can make informed decisions in an emergency and take appropriate actions to respond to impending threats.

While emergency planning often occurs in more urgent situations, residents welcomed the opportunity to construct a plan that will serve the community into the future. The Kennicott/McCarthy Volunteer Fire Department will play an active role in organizing local residents and developing the Public Preparedness and Emergency Notification Plan into an effective guide for rapid communication.

The July 22 meeting was one of a series of public meetings to provide fire officials and local residents an opportunity to ask questions and exchange information. Future meetings will provide a forum to continue the dialogue and provide community members with accurate and timely updates on the fire and its management.

Contact: Mark Keogh, Public Information Officer
Phone: (907) 822-7223