FIRE seasons come around all too quickly in Alaska.
No matter how prepared we may be,
no matter how many wildfires we may witness,
the deadly devastation never ceases to humble us.
Be they smokejumpers descending into the dense forest or a member of a volunteer fire department defending their neighbor's property--firefighters typically go un-noticed by most of us.
That is, until such time as they touch our lives...personally.
As creatures of habit, we all go about our daily lives in a rather routine way. Alaskans are no different.
No words can adequately describe the alarm and urgency of looking out your window to see dark,
bellowing smoke on the horizon which you can mentally triangulate to be only a few short miles from you,
your loved ones, and everything you have worked a lifetime to acquire.
Once faced with this dreadful situation, your everything suddenly depends upon the brave men and women who put their very lives at risk every day, along with the many who act behind the scenes coordinating the inter-agency efforts that must come together in a well choreographed effort--
where time is of the utmost essence.
Having personally been part of wildfire evacuations, we comprehend just how fortunate we are to live in a time when fire info is at our fingertips.
When Alaska wildfires begin, numerous agencies, at both the state and federal level, work to assess, analyze and respond.
The Alaska Interagency Coordination Center, or AICC for short, consolidates information from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Alaska DNR, the U.S. Forest Service, National Park Service, the Fish and Wildlife Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
Thanks to technological advances, the critical reporting provided to Alaskans via the AICC affords extra time to react to a situation that might affect their property. When dealing with fires...seconds can make all the difference.
Due to the seasonal aspect of wildfires, the AK Division of Forestry must take on a significant number of seasonal staff in order to make it through. Much akin to the tourism industry in Alaska, we'd all be toast without these seasonal workers.
When Alaska resources are tapped out and there's not enough manpower to cover the fires, firefighters from across the U.S. are called in. Likewise, Alaska will send its fire teams to the Lower 48 when they are in trouble. A quid pro quo relationship that has benefited both sides many times.
Because of the remote location of so many Alaska wildfires, these crews from 'Outside' face an even greater challenge. Being dropped into bear & moose country is a danger that most of them have never experienced (as if their chosen profession isn't adrenaline producing enough!). They fly to Alaska, get a very short briefing, then hit the hot ground running.
FIRE PROTECTION LEVELS:
These levels prioritize the response efforts of wildfires in Alaska
RED CRITICAL PROTECTION --
Response to a wildfire that threatens "human life, inhabited property, designated physical developments and structural resources such as those designated as National Historic Landmarks. The suppression objective is to provide complete protection to identified sites and control the fire at the smallest acreage reasonably possible. The allocation of suppression resources to fires threatening critical sites is given the highest priority." (1)
YELLOW FULL PROTECTION --
Response to a wildfire that threatens "uninhabited private property, high-valued natural resource areas, and other high-valued areas such as identified cultural and historical sites. The suppression objective is to control the fire at the smallest acreage reasonably possible. The allocation of suppression resources to fires receiving the full protection option is second in priority only to fires threatening a critical protection area." (1)
YELLOW MODIFIED PROTECTION --
Response to a wildfire that is "in areas where values to be protected do not justify the expense of full protection. The suppression objective is to reduce overall suppression costs without compromising protection of higher-valued adjacent resources. The allocation of suppression resources to fires receiving the modified protection option is of a lower priority than those in critical and full protection areas. A higher level of protection may be given during the peak burning periods of the fire season than early or late in the fire season." (1)
GREEN LIMITED PROTECTION --
Response to a wildfire that is "in areas where values to be protected do not justify the expense of a higher level of protection, and where opportunities can be provided for fire to help achieve land and resource protection objectives. The suppression objective is to minimize suppression costs without compromising protection of higher-valued adjacent resources. The allocation of suppression resources to fires receiving the limited protection option is of the lowest priority. Surveillance is an acceptable suppression response as long as higher valued adjacent resources are not threatened." (1)
Our most valuable purchase of the last decade:
Children and elderly are the most vulnerable to smoke. However, the most physically fit person in the prime of their life can become nearly paralyzed by wildfire smoke.
If you're lucky, a wildfire will never encroach upon your property. But there probably isn't a single Alaskan who hasn't experienced the discomfort of smoke & ash that rides upon the wind for hundreds of miles affecting vision, sleep and above all--breathing. All of your energy gets depleted and you'd give your right arm for just five minutes of fresh air. Then news reports come to let you know relief is nowhere in sight.
Trust us--that's not the time to figure out a solution.
We had purchased four Austin Air Filters in 2009, after mold allergies took one of our loved ones to their knees with wheezing and asthamtic symptoms. In subsequent years, we were ever so thankful to have had these filters during fire seasons that brought smoke wafting into every city of Alaska.
Austin medical grade, proprietary, HEGA filter air cleaners are made in the USA and worth their weight in gold. Trusted by the Red Cross, FEMA and the EPA, these filters prove to be priceless in a crisis... then keep going for years to improve the daily quality of life for any asthma or allergy sufferer (dust allergies, mold allergies, seasonal allergies, pet dander, etc.). Those who experience second hand smoke also benefit.
Don't be 'burned up' by the price--it's a relatively small price to pay for the priceless relief it provides.
Get Firewise, Alaska!