Known for its rugged independence, the BLM Alaska Fire Service Galena Fire Management Zone supports all BLM AFS efforts across 93 million acres in western Alaska – an area roughly the size of Montana.
Located 400 river miles and 271 air miles from Fairbanks, the zone operates primarily on boat and air transportation for both personnel and supplies. With no connecting roadways between villages, water and aerial resources are a critical component to fighting wildfires in this part of Alaska. Because much of the zone closer to Russia than the Lower 48, the need for rapid incident response resources can be a challenge. The reality for travel time can mean days depending on availability.
Despite Galena’s strategic and centralized location, fire operations coming in and out require significant logistical coordination. While this is the case in many parts of The Last Frontier, Galena has been operating at max capacity for most of the 2019 fire season. Burning at total of 207,196 acres within 82 wildfires, Western Alaska has seen its share of fire activity.
Hauling potable water daily, housing a seasonal staff around 30 and being a hub for smokejumpers and other resources en route to wildland fire, Galena’s behind-the-scenes staff provide remarkable service.
BY THE NUMBERS:
- Chow hall staff, many of which are local residents, feed 80-100 personnel daily — envision 1,200 pounds of cookie dough and 1,800 quarts of ranch dressing. It’s had to quantify more than 15,000 meals between mid-April until mid-August.
- 100,000 gallons of fuel was used across the zone.
- 500,000 pounds of cargo were moved from the warehouse, an average of 3,000 pounds of backhauled equipment transported weekly.
- Cleaning staff have prepared for back-to-back barracks guests by prepping laundry, rooms, facilities for incoming personnel.
A common mantra for folks working in Galena, “In rural Alaska, you don’t get it done by yourself.” This is apparent in the partnerships with local villages and DOI agencies like the National Park Service and Fish and Wildlife Service. Shared resources are key!
Living and working in Galena brings out not just a sense of community but rather one of family. Even the gnats and mosquitoes would agree.
Hear from the people who work at the Galena Fire Station on how they dealt with these changes during the 2019 fire season.