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US Fish & Wildlife Service FieldNotes

Alaska Fire Management: A measure of Protection

Region 7, April 26, 2013
Funny River fuelbreak.
Funny River fuelbreak. - Photo Credit: n/a

By Maureen Clark
Public Affairs Specialist
To the untrained eye, a broad swath of land recently cleared on the Kenai Peninsula may not look like much. But to wildland fire managers, this three-and-a-half-mile-long break amid the heavy black spruce forest provides a potential line of defense for a nearby residential neighborhood in the event of a wildfire in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

The clearing – or fuelbreak– was created in March by the Alaska Division of Forestry with funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Hazardous Fuels Reduction Program on private and borough land bordering the refuge. The Hazardous Fuels Reduction Program is a collaborative effort to reduce the threat of wildfire to communities within and adjacent to national wildlife refuges.

In fire management, hazard fuels are vegetation that ignites easily and burns rapidly, enabling a fire to grow quickly. Hazardous fuels reduction projects modify or break up vegetation to lessen the threat of fire to the public and firefighters and damage to property.

The new fuelbreak, located south and east of the City of Soldotna, provides protection for the Funny River Subdivision. It also provides an area from which to more easily suppress a fire should one occur.
And it could provide refuge managers and fire managers more flexibility in deciding whether to suppress a naturally occurring fire on refuge lands. Because lightning-caused fire is a natural part of the boreal forest and tundra ecosystems, not all fires on refuge lands are suppressed immediately.

“It’s a good piece of work,” said Hans Rinke, Kenai/Kodiak Area Forester with the Alaska Division of Forestry. “It was an opportunity for agencies to work together to accomplish our common goal of protecting life and property while allowing for the potential use of fire on the landscape.”

Contact Info: Maureen Clark, (907) 786-3469, Maureen_Clark@fws.gov