Alaska, Fire, ODF

ODF crews battle blazes in Alaska

Oregon Department of Forestry attack crews on the ground in Alaska. Photo: ODF

ALASKA – It’s been a somewhat tame fire season so far in Oregon, especially compared to last year.

With bases covered at home, the Oregon Department of Forestry sent personnel to assist in wildfire suppression efforts in Alaska in mid-July, according to a press release from ODF. 

Both states are members of the Northwest Compact, a resource-sharing agreement that crosses state and international lines to allow for quick resource sharing to combat wildfires. In total, five states and five Canadian territories and provinces are members of the Northwest Compact.

In 2018, Alaskan agencies lent assistance on Oregon’s Klondike and Taylor fires, two blazes that combined, burned more than 225,000 acres in Southern Oregon.  

“ODF leadership selected personnel from areas where current conditions and available resources allow for the opportunity to send help to our Alaskan partners while ensuring capacity to respond to any local fires on the home front,” a statement from ODF read.

In addition to simply helping in Alaska, the unique circumstances provide training opportunities for ODF staff, such as working on the Alaskan permafrost, avoiding conflicts with local wildlife, and transportation challenges – in Alaska, fire camps can be remote and require helicopter rides to transport personnel to the front lines.

“These ODF crews were selected from across the state for their skill and experience with initial attack, as well as the availability and conditions back home. Our folks are not assigned to a large fire up here, but are relieving exhausted personnel engaged in continuing efforts to catch new fire starts while they are small. As part of Oregon’s complete and coordinated system, and the Northwest Compact, this is what ODF is all about,” said ODF’s Jamie Paul, serving as the Agency Representative for ODF resources in Alaska. “We are happy the timing allows us to assist our interagency Alaskan partners in their time of need.”

As of July 16, ODF had 28 personnel serving in Alaska, with most returning after an expected 14 day assignment, and some returning after a week’s stay in Alaska. 

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Chas Hundley is the editor of the Banks Post and sister news publications the Gales Creek Journal and the Salmonberry Magazine. He grew up in Gales Creek and has a cat.

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