Village in Alaska Plans Ahead for Fire
The village of Evansville, located in the foothills of the Brooks Range within the Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska, successfully completed a two-year project to reduce unnatural accumulation of vegetation surrounding the community. If left in place, the vegetation would have provided a direct path to fuel a fire from natural areas into the community.
As part of the project, firefighters from the refuge thinned dense stands of black spruce in and around the village. The removal of the trees will help prevent fire from spreading into the community by creating a break in the flammable vegetation and by making the area more accessible to fire engines. The slash which resulted from the thinning effort was put into piles and burned with the help of the local volunteer fire department, as weather conditions allowed. The project, funded by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, was completed in June 2008.
In addition to the broad scale thinning, Firewise assessments were completed throughout the village. Firewise is a program sponsored by multiple federal, state, local, and tribal firefighting agencies that provides guidelines to make a home more survivable in the event of a fire. All public buildings and ninety percent of all residences had the recommended Firewise thinning work completed as a result.
A large, shaded fuel break designed to slow a moving fire was also created at the north end of the village, where black spruce stands previously continued unabated directly to the north onto the refuge lands. Much of black spruce was removed from this area due to its propensity to carry fire. Healthy birch trees, which are more fire-resistant, were left standing.
Firefighters also cleared an overgrown fire lane, created years ago east of the village, providing an additional barrier to stop an advancing fire.
In all, nearly 60 acres were treated as part of this effort to reduce hazardous conditions. A side benefit of the project was open dialog between the village and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which will continue to support the mutually beneficial goal of protecting communities near natural areas.
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