The Ahtna, Inc. Land Department worked with Wrangell-St. Elias National Park (WSNP), Alaska Department of Natural Resources (DNR), and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to modify fire management options on Ahtna land. Fire protection has been increased to help protect Ahtna lands currently enrolled in the Carbon Credits Program. Following several amicable meetings, representatives from the WSNP, DNR, and BLM were receptive to protocol changes based partially on the rapidly changing fire climate and sharp increase in fire damage occurring in the region over the last decade.
All of the land considered for increased protection is located within the boundary of WSNP where low-level fire protection is desired for ecological purposes, in contrast to Ahtna’s need for high level protection of lands enrolled in the Carbon Credits Program. From an operational standpoint, the checkerboard nature of the ownership creates an unrealistic situation for firefighters responsible for fulfilling conflicting fire management options on adjacent parcels of land. Previously, all Ahtna and WSNP lands were associated with the Limited fire management option, and we agreed to modify the options to address the goals of all parties involved. Ahtna negotiated an increase in the fire management option in the affected area to Modified with a delayed fire suppression date of August 20.
Alaska Wildland Fire Management Options provide for a full range of fire suppression responses, from aggressive control and extinguishment to surveillance. In general control, contain, and confine strategies relate with different protection options. Control strategies can be associated with critical and full protection, a contain or confine strategy can be associated with modified protection, and a confine (to a geographic area) strategy can be associated with limited protection. The options are as follows:
- Critical – The highest priority for suppression actions.
- Full – High priority but below critical.
- Modified – Modified allows for a response to wildfire that tailors the initial action to the time of the year the fire starts.
- Limited – Lowest priority for fire-related resource assignments.
The operational guidelines for each management option will be appropriate for a high percentage of wildfire situations that occur in Alaska given normal fire conditions; however, situations arise where non-standard responses are prudent and justifiable. The level of initial response to a fire may be increased or decreased regardless of the management option in order to mitigate risk, accommodate safety concerns, address higher management priorities, and/or manage resource availability. Non-standard responses provide an opportunity for firefighters to validate existing management option boundaries, as well as to evaluate their ability to adjust quickly and respond appropriately to unusual situations.Ahtna, Inc. is dedicated to maintaining the health and safety of our forests and the communities within the region. People can live compatibly with wildland fire if they are aware of and prepared for local fire conditions. The more populated and closer a community is to fire prone areas, the greater the need for a proactive approach and a community’s involvement in fire risk reduction activities.
It is essential that everyone using Ahtna land be responsible for safe fire practices:
- Locate your fire in a place where it cannot spread
- Use existing campfire sites wherever possible
- Dig campfire pits all the way through the duff layer to the mineral soil or permafrost
- Keep water nearby in case things get out of hand
When extinguishing a fire, be sure the area is cool to the touch before vacatingIn addition to preventing wildfires, the public needs to be vigilant and promptly contact the proper authorities to report fires spotted on the landscape. If a fire is observed, the first course of action is to immediately call 911 to report the fire. Any fires located on Ahtna land should also be reported to the Ahtna, Inc. Land Department in Glennallen at (907) 822-3476.An Alaska DNR, Division of Forestry Burn Permit is good for one year and is required from April 1-August 31 and at other times of the year as required by the DNR for burn barrels, maintained lawns less than 1 acre in size, and brush piles. Cooking, warming, and signaling fires less than 3 feet in diameter and 2 feet in height or commercially manufactured cooking devices (including grills, barbeques, camp stoves, hydronic heaters, etc.) do not require a burn permit but must comply with the Alaska Wildland Fire Protection Statutes and Regulations, and follow the manufacturers’ recommend guidelines for safe burning. Burn permits can be obtained from the Division of Forestry website (forestry.alaska.gov), the local Division of Forestry Office in Tazlina, and participating vendors in the Copper River Basin.