Wildland firefighters from the Mat-Su Area Forestry station in Palmer have taken advantage of favorable conditions and have conducted two prescribed burns this week. The first is the Sitze Road 15-acre prescribed burn that initiated during favorable conditions Monday afternoon, continued on Tuesday and will be finished today. Serving as a critical training opportunity to ensure that communications, coordination and tactics are tested and improved, structural firefighters from both Central Mat-Su Fire Department and West Lakes Fire Department are working alongside experienced Mat-Su Area wildland firefighters including the Pioneer Peak Hot Shots to complete this fuels reduction and training operation.
The second project this week occurred on Wednesday when Mat-Su Area fire crews worked and trained with structural firefighters from the Butte Volunteer Fire Department to conduct a 1/2-acre prescribed burn on State managed lands in the Maud Rd Shooting Range. The range is closed on Wednesdays. The Mat-Su Area Forestry’s initial attack helicopter was pre-positioned to support the operation with water drops as needed. As you can see from these pictures captured by the Gannett Glacier Initial Attack Crew at Maud Rd Shooting Range, even a relatively “small” half acre prescribed burn requires a significant amount of both coordination and engine support. Dry grasses burn with serious intensity, especially prior to green up and when the winds are blowing or swirling. One of the biggest benefits of training within the Incident Command System on a prescribed fire is a thorough test of the communication systems. The result of training is that fire fighters ensure that radio frequencies are compatible between agencies and that they’ve shared the experience through practice. Wildland firefighters do not engage in active firefighting without having provided for safety first.
How important is this skillset? One of the most important suppression tools that allows wildland fire crews to protect homes and contain the spread of wildfires is to “fight fire with fire”. On Saturday May 8th in the evening night, the Gannett Glacier Fire Crew based in Palmer used their drip torches and experience to “burn off” an area and successfully contain a human-caused grass fire at the Maud Road shooting range that was spreading out of control in the wind.
The prescribed burns should produce some bright, green grass once greenup hits.
Photo credits: Gannett Glacier Fire Crew & firefighters from the Mat-Su Area Forestry station in Palmer.
Residents and visitors to the area may see smoke from these #RxFIRE operations that will remove the dry vegetation and reduce the wildfire danger in these areas.