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.

Downed spruce bark beetle killed trees in project area before work began.

Chokosna Residents and Wrangell-St. Elias Create Firewise Zone

Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve, Alaska
National Fire Plan, Fuels Reduction*

Wildland fire happens in Alaska. In fact, nearly three million acres burned across the state in 2009. As in the past, fire will again threaten some Alaskans' residences. Are they prepared? Jack and Susan Smith of Chokosna are ready.

Plenty of piles ready to be burned in the project area.

Concerned about the fire risk around their remote home, the pro-active Chokosna residents removed vegetation around their property, although more work needed to be done. The Smith property borders Wrangell-St.Elias National Park and Preserve (WRST) and a fire could have easily moved from the park's thick spruce forest onto their Firewise property if WRST did not thin out vegetation too. The Smiths approached the park and asked for help in removing the hazardous fuels.

In the spring of 2009, WRST Fire Management and Jack Smith, an experienced land surveyor, flagged a 100-foot buffer zone, extending from the WRST-Smith property boundary onto WRST land. National Park Service fire ecologists established plots within and adjacent to the 100-foot zone to document the effectiveness of the fuel reduction project. During the summer of 2009, Pioneer Peak, an Alaskan Interagency Hotshot Fire Crew sawed and piled dead and down beetle killed trees and thinned spruce trees in the buffer zone. To eliminate the fire risk the 200-vegetation piles posed, WRST Fire Management and Alaska Fire Service staff burned the piles in late October.

Putting the last finishing touches to a new Firewise Zone.

Alaskan fire managers do not work alone. The Chokosna and WRST Firewise project was a collaborative effort. Thanks to the Smiths, State of Alaska, Alaska Fire Service and WRST, a Firewise zone was created that will provide a safer environment for the Smiths as well as firefighters, and will aid in protecting structures in the event of a fire. For more information on how to be Firewise in Alaska visit Alaska Fire Service website and click on Firewise Alaska.

Contact: Andrew Ruth, Lead Forestry Technician
Phone: (907) 455-0654

*This story supports the Department of the Interior initiatives.