Service, Interagency Partners, and Local Governments Protect Remote Villages from Fire
As part of a series of multi-year hazard fuel reduction projects, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service continued to work with partners this spring and summer to protect remote Alaskan villages within refuge boundaries from wildland fire. Many of these villages are nestled alongside wildlands with dense vegetation putting them at risk should a fire start in the area. Both prescribed burning and mechanical treatments such as thinning have been used in cooperation with local villages to help maintain forest health and to reduce the risk to the communities.
Near Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge, the Service along with Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the State of Alaska Division of Forestry focused fuel reduction efforts in the communities of Beaver, Venetie, and Stevens Village. The local governments were also involved in the projects.
In May, firefighters from Yukon Flats Refuge supervised emergency firefighters from the village of Beaver as they burned 76 slash piles which were a result of thinning to create a protective fire break around the village. In July, a fire crew from Stevens Village began thinning and piling flood debris which had accumulated during spring flooding leaving large amounts of woody debris directly among the structures near the Yukon River increasing the opportunity for fire to burn into the village. The slash piles will be burned when favorable weather is predicted for the area.
The village of Venetie, located on private lands directly between the Yukon Flats and Arctic National Wildlife Refuges, also embarked on a thinning project in the early summer around public facilities and residences to remove hazardous vegetation adjacent to the village. As of July, substantial progress had been made to reduce the fire risk within the village which has been threatened by fire several times in recent years.
Local community involvement has been a key factor in the success of these fuel reduction projects for the Service. Engaging interagency partners and local emergency firefighters has helped to create public support for the much needed work to protect remote Alaska communities.
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