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Decreased Wildfire Risk Develops Leaders and Benefits Alaskan Community
Copper Center, Alaska—The first phase of Wrangell-St. Elias National Park and Preserve's headquarters hazard fuels project has been completed as of September 20th, 2010. National Park Service Fire Management, Southeast Alaska Guidance Association (SAGA), and Alaska Fire Service Smokejumpers treated approximately 93% of the project area, some of which had densities of 6,000 trees/acre. To reduce the intensity of a potential wildland fire and provide for firefighter and public safety, crew members began thinning vegetation in late August.
The project was not a "clear cut", but rather a thinning of vegetation surrounding the headquarters roads, buildings, and parking area to create defensible space around structures where fire poses an unacceptable threat to property and resources. National Park Service, Forestry Technician, Ansel Siegenthaler remarked, "We are thinning the forest to simulate the natural role of fire on the landscape".
Over ten cords of firewood accumulated during the project has been donated to Ahtna tribal elders in the Copper River community. Copper River Native Association (CRNA) worked with National Park Service staff to facilitate the donation and distribution of firewood during the project. Eleven Ahtna elders received firewood so far; however CRNA will continue to prioritize the needs of the Ahtna elders for firewood that is ready for transport.
Serve Alaska Corp, SAGA crew members, aimed to use the hazard fuels project as an avenue to grow personally and professionally while exploring career paths, seeking leadership experience, and serving Alaskan communities. The end of the project left SAGA crew members discussing how they developed leadership skills, endurance, patience, and camaraderie among the crew. Tim Jutsum commented, "The project teaches you patience. My first thought was that we couldn't do it, but then you find out that you really can do it. And, the reward is that it is really worth it". SAGA crew members have already donated more than 1,019 total hours of service since the beginning of the project.
National Park Service staff will continue to be available to explain the project and Firewise techniques used to reduce fire risk to your home, property, and community. Wrangell-St. Elias staff invites the local community, visitors, and media to come see the hazard fuels project and learn how to live compatibly with wildfire.
For additional information regarding the headquarters hazard fuels project, please visit the website at https://www.nps.gov/wrst/parkmgmt/fuels-hq-project.htm, or contact:
Mark Keogh, Public Information Officer, 907-822-7223 or Andrew Ruth, 907-699-2218.