Field Notes
U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
Field Notes Entry   
KANUTI: Refuge Park Ranger Tapped to Serve as Fire Information Officer
Alaska Region, July 19, 2005
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Earlier this summer, when lightning started a fire near Chapman Creek along the Dalton Highway, federal agencies deployed teams of firefighters to contain the blaze and minimize potential harm to public and private properties. The Bureau of Land Management is responsible for wildland fire suppression in northern Alaska and their Alaska Fire Service assembled crews of smokejumpers, emergency firefighters and hotshots to attack the blaze. Kanuti National Wildlife Refuge Park Ranger Jody DeMeyere, already stationed near the fire at the Arctic Interagency Visitor Center, Coldfoot, AK, was assigned the job of Fire Information Officer trainee. In addition to her regular outreach duties at the visitor center, Jody prepared daily or twice-daily news releases on the status of the fire and the on-going suppression activities. On July 7th Jody arranged a public meeting in which the Alaska Fire Service presented an overview of suppression strategies, and explained why specific tactics were used. These public information efforts were especially appreciated by local residents who were concerned about the fire's close approach to various cabins and properties in the Dalton highway corridor. The fire ultimately burned 162,900 acres by the time efforts of firefighters and summer rains combined in mid-July to stop the fire's spread.

On the nearby Kanuti Refuge, the ?Old Dummy? fire, which started on June 16, grew to 78,196 acres by mid-July. In late June, a team of Alaska Fire Service smoke jumpers were deployed to protect the Refuges? field station along the Kanuti River. The smoke jumpers left about a week later, after rains quelled the fire so that it no longer threatened the Refuge's facility. Fires of this size are a normal summertime occurrence in central and northern Alaska, and the Refuge management plans support the maintenance of a natural fire regime as long as individual fires do not threaten human life or property. In the past 15 years about half of Kanuti Refuge's 1.6 million acres has experienced a wildland fire, which has resulted in a mosaic of diverse habitats.

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