Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
Region 7 2004 Fire Season Summary
Alaska Region, September 30, 2004
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The 2004 fire season was a banner year for fire occurrence in Alaska. A total of 706 fires burned encompassing 6,699,023 acres. Although the season started out like a lamb with a rainy spring, it ended as being the third driest year on record in Alaska. The unusual weather pattern brought multiple lightning strikes to the State resulting in many simultaneous fires. At one point, over 2,000 fire related personnel were here from outside of Alaska. It was the first year that engines where brought from outside of Alaska. At the height of the fire activity all 70 Alaska Emergency Fire Fighter village crews where committed to assignments. More than 60% of the fires in Alaska were human caused.

The season's first refuge fire was reported May 9 on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Many fires burned for several months and several were not declared out until mid-October. Nearly one-third of the total Alaska acreage burned this year was on National Wildlife Refuge System lands. Wildfires occurred on 10 of Alaska's 16 refuges. A total of 89 fires burned on refuge lands encompassing 1,808,825 acres. The largest single fire was a lightning start July 7 on the Yukon Flats Refuge, encompassing 338,278 acres, and was declared out in mid-October. Six of the fires occurring on refuge lands were over 100,000 acres. This year was a first for getting a Burn Area Emergency Response (BAER) team to Alaska.

Fifty-six Region 7 employees participated on interagency fire assignments in Alaska and the Lower 48. One Fire Management Officer from Region 4 and one person from Region 6 were detailed to the region to assist with support. The Tetlin Refuge fire staff provided equipment, crew spike camps at FWS campgrounds, and office space for the Taylor Complex fire which burned more than 1.3 million acres.

Refuge staff conducted fire prevention and education efforts for more than 1,700 individuals on the Kenai, Tetlin, Koyokuk, Innoko, Selawik, Yukon Delta, Yukon Flats, Kanuti, and Arctic Refuge areas. Program topics included: ?Role of Fire? curriculum, wildland fire prevention, mitigation, safety, adapted species, effects, research, monitoring and mapping. Participants included: Benzulnethas Culture Camp, Tok High School Environmental Literature Class, Alaska Natural Resources and Outdoor Education Workshop, NCTC School's Out Class, Nature Buddies, Nature Exploration through Art, Outdoor Days, Teacher In-Service, Youth Conservation Corps (YCC), Student Conservation Association (SCA), Discovery Hikes, campfire talks, and the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center. Other educational media included newspaper articles, radio spots, prevention patrols and information on bulletin boards at visitor centers, campgrounds, boat launches, trailheads, Alaska Highway pullouts, and cafes. Region 7 staff presented a poster on the ?Role of Fire in Alaska? curriculum at an international fire ecology conference.

The Kenai Refuge fire staff completed the Kenai Forest Wildfire and Fuels Management Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) and the implementation plan: All Lands/All Hands 5-year Action Plan (2005-2009). The plan was an effort by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, State of Alaska, US Forest Service, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Bureau of Land Management, and several other interested parties. As with many of our projects they involved collaboration with Native village council and leaders, other Federal and State agencies.

Rural Fire Assistance grants where provide to Tok, Nikiski, Anchor Point, and Funny River Volunteer fire departments.

Staff changes in the Regional office included Mary Kwart selected as Wildland Urban Interface Coordinator and Laurie Thorpe selected as Fire Program Specialist.

Contact Info: Kristen Gilbert, 907-786-3391, Kristen_Gilbert@fws.gov
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