U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service

Fire Management

Balancing Goals

Fire is an important natural process on most of Alaska's 16 national wildlife refuges. However, we also recognize that unwanted wildfires need to be suppressed. We balance these goals by carefully planning our response to fire and by working cooperatively with local communities, the State of Alaska and other federal agencies.

Interested in the current fire situation in Alaska?

Current Alaska Fire Situation

Firefighters perform burn out operation in shaded fuelbreak

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service manages fire on national wildlife refuges in Alaska to protect life and property while maintaining the health of ecosystems that depend on fire.

Woman photographing burned vegetation. Photo credit USFWS.
collecting vegetation samples
Collecting vegetation samples. Photo credit: USFWS


Fire Science

Fire is a natural part of boreal forest and tundra ecosystems. Through research and monitoring we seek to improve our understanding of fire and its role on Fish and Wildlife Service lands in Alaska and to make informed, science-based decisions about the management of fire.

Fire plays a role in shaping the mosaic of vegetation patterns on Alaska national wildlife refuges and, hence, the wildlife that inhabits our refuges. Fish and Wildlife Service fire science projects in Alaska have focused on such topics as the long-term recovery of vegetation after a fire, the response of wildlife to post-fire environments, patterns of burning on the landscape, and modeling how the occurrence of fire may change in the future.

We work collaboratively with the State of Alaska and other agencies and organizations to learn more about fire and its effects. To learn more about this inter-agency work, visit the Alaska Fire Science Consortium website.

Field Notes

Planning for Fire

Because wildfires are a common occurrence in Alaska we plan for fire. On many refuges in Alaska, it's not a question of if there will be fire, but when. By planning, we are able to reduce the risks to life and property and use fire to maintain the health of ecosystems.

All fire management actions on Alaska refuges are based on Fire management Plans. These plans are aligned with the objectives of the Comprehensive Conservation Plans that guide management of each refuge and with the Alaska Interagency Wildland Fire Management Plan. Fire Management Plans provide direction to prepare for and respond to fires; for fire prevention and education efforts, for fire effects monitoring and research, and for hazardous fuels reduction.

Each refuge in Alaska maintains its own Fire Management Plan. Questions and comments about a refuge's plan should be directed to the refuge manager. Please see [Placeholder Link] for contact information.


On May 19th 2014 the Funny River fire started on the western side of Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Over the next five days the fire grew to nearly 200,000 acres, burning four structures and two outbuildings.

large cloud of smoke
Large cloud of smoke
firefighter using driptorch
Firefighter using driptorch.
firefighting airplane scooping water
Firefighting airplane scooping water


Responding to Fire

Interagency cooperation is critical to how we respond to wildfires on national wildlife refuges in Alaska. By working with others we can minimize duplication of efforts and coordinate the use of limited firefighting resources.

The Bureau of Land Management-Alaska Fire Service and the State of Alaska Division of Forestry manage fires on refuges in Alaska. We work closely with these agencies while retaining overall responsibility for all fire management activities on refuges.

The cornerstone of this interagency cooperation is the Alaska Wildland Fire Coordinating Group. This group developed the Alaska Interagency Wildland Fire Management Plan, which outlines the initial response to and management of wildland fire in Alaska.

In addition, the staff of the Fish and Wildlife Service Fire Management Program provides critical support for wildland fire preparedness and response efforts throughout Alaska and the nation.

Working with Communities

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Hazardous Fuels Reduction Program is a collaborative effort to reduce the threat of wildfire to communities within and adjacent to our national wildlife refuges.

In fire management, a hazardous fuel is 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 catastrophic fire to the public and firefighters and damage to property. These projects range from the thinning of trees around structures to the construction of strategic fuel breaks around entire communities. Fuel breaks also provide an area from which to more easily suppress a fire, should one occur.

Since 2001, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has assisted 15 rural Alaska communities implement Community Wildlifre Protection Plans and achieve their goals of reducing hazardous fuels on more than 3,500 acres.

Fish and Wildlife Service funding for hazardous fuels reduction is limited and is offered through a competitive process at http://www.grants.gov. For more information contact the Regional Fire Management Coordinator at (907) 786-3497.

Field Notes


On May 19th 2014 the Funny River fire started on the western side of Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. Over the next five days the fire grew to nearly 200,000 acres, burning four structures and two outbuildings.

burning woody debris in winter
Burning woody debris in winter
workers thinning forest
Workers thinning forest


Fire Curriculum

Fire in Alaska Curriculum

Fire burns thousands of acres in Alaska each year. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service developed the "Role of Fire in Alaska" curriculum to help students in grades K-12 learn about the role of fire in boreal forest and tundra ecosystems. Teachers: the Curriculum Guide below has all the information you need to get started.