Timely Clearing Saves Cabin from Wildfire

Yukon Flats National Wildlife Refuge - 2004

Yukon Flats refuge's Canvasback Lake administrative cabin is surrounded by hundreds of thousands of acres of mature lowland white spruce, aspen, dense brush, and grass. The area was believed to have last burned in the early 1940's and as a result is subject to massive wildland fires. In September 2003, Refuge Fire Management staff cleared around this cabin to comply with national Firewise standards by removing dead and downed trees, mowing grass, and trimming trees and shrubs to 100 feet from the cabin. The area was similarly treated about ten years to create defensible space around the cabin.

The summer of 2004 was a record fire season in Alaska with more than 6.4 million acres burned, including more than a million acres on Yukon Flats refuge. The 70,000-acre Lower Mouth fire threatened the Canvasback Lake cabin on August 25. Knowing of the two previous treatments, the Alaska Fire Service dropped eight smokejumpers at the cabin who set up a pump and a sprinkler system and proceeded to burn-out from a wet line surrounding the cabin's perimeter as the fire approached, forcing the fire around the structure. The cabin was not damaged and will serve as an excellent site for post-fire studies.

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