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.

The McCarthy Volunteer Fire Department is made up of individuals dedicated to public safety and community service.

McCarthy Volunteer Firefighters: A Vital Part of the Community

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska

The Chakina Fire was ignited by lightning on July 2, 2009 near the remote Alaskan towns of McCarthy and Kennecott in Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve. The park had not had a wildland fire of significant size since 1981 and the immediate McCarthy area had not seen a wildfire in the park's recorded history. The Chakina Fire brought together the National Park Service and the Alaska State Division of Forestry, as well as local groups and individuals. Among these was the Kennecott/McCarthy Volunteer Fire Department (VFD).

A volunteer firefighter discusses defensible space with a Long Lake resident.

Members of the McCarthy Volunteer Fire Department re-roof one of the outbuildings at their headquarters at the Tony Zak Community Center in McCarthy, Alaska.

By July 6, an interagency incident management team was in place and operating in the VFD headquarters at the Tony Zak Community Center. It quickly became apparent that a community preparedness plan was needed to help residents respond to area emergencies such as wildfires. The Kennecott/McCarthy and Strelna volunteer fire departments worked with the incident management team and played an important role. The VFD members contributed to the planning effort by sharing local knowledge about the area and helping planners develop a system for notifying residents in the event of a wildfire or other emergency. They were also instrumental in educating residents about the importance of a community preparedness plan and building grassroots support for the effort.

The Kennecott/McCarthy Volunteer Fire Department is made up of residents with a common goal to protect their communities and the families and neighbors who live there. The firefighters are dedicated to public service and safety, as well as teamwork. When asked why he took on this job, one firefighter stated, "to help protect my community-no institutions out here."

The VFD worked the interagency incident management team to accomplish a wide variety of tasks, including assessing fire hazards around homes and identifying water sources and safety zones. They also raised public awareness of how residents could protect their homes and property by creating defensible space.

The Chakina Fire underscored the importance of VFDs and community-based emergency planning in the Kennecott/ McCarthy area. As a result, the Kennecott/McCarthy VFD will take a leading role in putting the area's new Public Preparedness and Emergency Notification Plan into action and helping the communities respond quickly to emergency situations.

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