BLM AFS, USARAK burn woody debris piles from fuel break on military lands near Delta Junction

Update on Feb. 21, 2020:

BLM Alaska Fire Service personnel completed burning woody debris piles in the Donnelly Training Area West (DTAW) between Feb. 9-12. They were able to burn the remaining 54 large, machine-built piles on the far west section of the 21-mile fuel break created during a multi-year hazardous fuels reduction project on military lands in the DTAW. The approximately 1,080 hand piles were created by U.S. Army Integrated Training Area Management (ITAM) Program personnel to keep fire intensity down in a white spruce stand in case a wildfire reaches just south of the main fuel break, known as the DTAW Shearblade Fuel Treatment. This increases the chances of keeping unplanned wildfires from spreading off of Army training lands. However, due to the abundance of snow, they were only able to burn a small amount of the smaller hand piles created in 2019 in a smaller shaded fuel treatment while thinning a spruce stand adjacent to the larger fuel break. In the upcoming weeks, BLM AFS personnel will return to the check on the burned piles to ensure they’re out.

The DTAW Shearblade Fuel Treatment, which connects the Delta River to Delta Creek, is the finished product following removal of continuous spruce by shearing trees close to the ground during the winter when the ground is frozen. This process reduces the wildfire hazard while leaving the underlying soil intact. This fuel treatment was instrumental in managing the Oregon Lakes Fire last summer by helping firefighters keep the fire from moving north off Army training lands. The salvageable trees are made available for commercial timber sale.

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Original post on Feb. 6, 2020:

The Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service (BLM AFS), in cooperation with the U.S. Army Alaska (USARAK), will burn woody debris piles created during a multi-year hazardous fuels reduction project on military training lands southwest of Delta Junction. Burning operations will start as early as Saturday, Feb. 8 and may continue, as conditions allow, until March 29.

The approximately 150 piles are primarily composed of cut spruce trees. Fifty of these piles are left from a fuel break constructed in the Donnelly Training Area West (DTAW) by shearing trees close to the ground, which reduces the wildfire hazard while leaving the underlying soil intact. Also targeted for burning are about 100 piles created by thinning a stand of white spruce adjacent to this shear blade line. A total of about 1,150 woody debris piles were created by USARAK range personnel when constructing a 21-mile fuel break in the DTAW stretching from the Delta River to Delta Creek. This firebreak was integral in managing the Oregon Lakes Fire last summer by helping firefighters keep the fire from moving north of Army training lands. 

In accordance with an open burn approval issued by the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation (ADEC), the piles will be ignited when weather conditions will minimize the impact of smoke on populated areas. Smoke may be visible west of Delta Junction from the Richardson Highway. The BLM AFS and USARAK work in conjunction with ADEC and the National Weather Service to forecast and monitor smoke conditions to ensure compliance with local, state, and federal regulations governing air quality.

For more information about prescribed fire on the Donnelly Training Area and other U.S. Army Garrison Fort Wainwright lands, contact the BLM AFS Dispatch Center in Fairbanks at (907) 356-5555 or BLM AFS Public Affairs Specialist Beth Ipsen at (907)388-2159 or eipsen@blm.gov.

Map of with locations of woody debris piles slated for burning.
Map of with locations of woody debris piles slated for burning.

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About BLM Alaska Fire Service

The Bureau of Land Management Alaska Fire Service (AFS) located at Fort Wainwright, Alaska, provides wildland fire suppression services for over 244 million acres of Department of the Interior and Native Corporation Lands in Alaska. In addition, AFS has other statewide responsibilities that include: interpretation of fire management policy; oversight of the BLM Alaska Aviation program; fuels management projects; and operating and maintaining advanced communication and computer systems such as the Alaska Lightning Detection System. AFS also maintains a National Incident Support Cache with a $10 million inventory. The Alaska Fire Service provides wildland fire suppression services for America’s “Last Frontier” on an interagency basis with the State of Alaska Department of Natural Resources, USDA Forest Service, National Park Service, Bureau of Indian Affairs, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Military in Alaska.

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