Fireline Video: Watch as Fire Crews Load “Backhaul” into a Support Airplane in Chalkyitsik, Alaska

Subscribe to the Chalkyitsik Complex YouTube channel for instant notification of new fireline videos. https://bit.ly/2K5TW6h. When airplanes like the CASA C-212 Aviocar land at the Chalkyitsik airstrip in the remote and roadless area 50 miles east of Ft Yukon, there is always a full load of fire personnel or support gear and supplies. In order to reduce the impacts that firefighters have on remote villages in Alaska, every airplane that leaves for Fairbanks is loaded with as much gear – and trash – as possible. This is called “backhaul”, and great care is taken to make sure it is handled and transported properly from the remote crew camps along the extensive firelines to the boats, the boats to the vehicles, the vehicles to the airstrip and finally into the airplanes bound for Fairbanks.

Fire crews camp for two weeks at a time and cook food provided in large quantities over campfires and on camp stoves. All of the trash from the kitchens and general fire suppression and support operations are packed in plastic trash bags and then bagged in a burlap bags to ensure the integrity of the plastic so that it does not tear. Bears are attracted to the fresh food and trash at the remote camps. Every effort is taken to ensure that the bears do not get into the trash, that the trash bags don’t tear during transport, and that the trash gets back to Fairbanks so that it is processed and disposed of. Cardboard boxes are flattened and taped together, empty plastic water jugs that aren’t in shape to be reused are compressed and fiber taped to save space, and everything is weighed so that the pilot and crew fly safely and within their operational limits.

The highest priority for all fire personnel is ensuring the protection of the Gwich’in village of Chalkyitsik. Fire crews continue work to secure the line in the vicinity of Ohtig Lake working north along indirect lines. Mop up activities continue between the Draanjik River and Chahalie Lake along with point protection of structures and when possible allotments within the river corridor. Fire crews will support initial attack in the Upper Yukon Zone as requested and several new crews have been arriving to replace crew who have completed their 14 day tours and are heading home to rest and see their families. 

Fire crews load "backhaul" into a support airplane in Chalkyitsik, Alaska. All trash is carefully double bagged with burlap on the outside to protect it as the goal is to limit and reduce the impacts to the remote villages. Photo credit: Kale Casey/Alaska IMT/BLM Alaska Fire Service
Fire crews load “backhaul” into a support airplane in Chalkyitsik, Alaska. All trash is carefully double bagged with burlap on the outside to protect it as the goal is to limit and reduce the impacts to the remote villages. Photo credit: Kale Casey/Alaska IMT/BLM Alaska Fire Service

INFO: KZPA 900 AM radio in Fort Yukon is airing information updates about the Chalkyitsik Complex

Info Line: (907) 356-5511

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Video credit: PIO Kale Casey AKIMT/BLM AFS Alaska Fire Service/DNR Alaska Division of Forestry.

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