Fairbanks Area Forestry to discuss Haystack fire breaks at Feb. 14 meeting

The Alaska Division of Forestry’s Fairbanks Area office is holding a public meeting on Monday, February 14 in Fox to talk about two fire breaks the agency is proposing to protect homes in the Haystack Mountain area north of Fairbanks. The meeting will be held at the Fox Lions Community Center, 2285 Steese Highway, beginning at 6 p.m.

The two fire breaks, part of the Haystack Mountain Fuels Mitigation Project, are located along Washington Creek and Leuthold Drive, approximately 20 miles north of Fairbanks. The two fuel breaks would help protect more than 200 homes in multiple subdivisions.

A map showing two proposed fire breaks north of Fairbanks in the Haystack Mountain area.
This map shows the location of two fire breaks the Alaska Division of Forestry is proposing to construct north of Fairbanks along Washington Creek and Leuthold Drive to protect homes in the Haystack Mountain area.

The project would widen pre-existing control lines and establish new treatment units along Washington Creek and Leuthold Drive. Based on fuels, topography, and community impact, a variety of treatment methods are being considered. The Washington Creek fuel break would start at approximately Mile 16 Elliott Highway and extend north and east for approximately 14 miles. The Leuthold Drive fire break would parallel the north side of the road for about 2 miles.

“The planned fuel breaks would enhance public safety by providing firefighters with tactical alternatives to suppress fast-moving wildfires and create a more mosaic and fire-resistant landscape,” Fire Management Officer Gordon Amundson with Fairbanks Area Forestry said. “Once completed, the fuel breaks will offer fire resistance barriers that can also serve as control lines during wildland fire suppression efforts and provide a safer working environment for firefighters.”

The Haystack Mountain area has been threatened by multiple major wildfires in recent years, most recently last summer by the Haystack Fire that burned 927 acres and prompted evacuation alerts for more than 200 homeowners. Other fires that have posed a threat include the 2004 Boundary Fire and the 2015 Aggie Creek Fire.

An aerial photo of the Haystack Fire showing a large column of smoke and flames, as well as a fire break cut across the top of the hillside the fire is burning on
The Haystack Fire north of Fairbanks burns near a fire break on a hillside Wednesday afternoon, June 16, 2021. The fire break was constructed for the Boundary Fire in 2004 and was used by firefighters to help battle the 927-acre Haystack Fire. The fire break is one that would be expanded and extended as part of the Haystack Mountain Fuels Mitigation Project proposed by the Alaska Division of Forestry. Ryan McPherson/BLM Alaska Fire Service.

Those kind of wildland-urban interface fires are precisely the kind of fires the Division of Forestry wants to prevent, Amundson said. Because of their close proximity to communities, wildland-urban interface fires are the most complex, costly, and dangerous situations firefighters and the public can face.

“This is a proactive approach to address what has been a long-standing concern for both homeowners and fire managers,” Amundson said.

The proposed Haystack fire breaks are an extension of a comprehensive Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) that was completed in 2005 to assess high-risk fire areas in the Fairbanks North Star Borough. The Haystack Mountain area is identified in the CWPP as a ‘High’ to ‘Extreme’ fire risk “Zone of Concern” due to topography and a dense and continuous black spruce landscape. As part of its wildland fire protection mandate and an increased emphasis on hazardous fuels reduction, the DOF is working to expand the existing network of fuel treatment projects to reduce the threat of fires impacting communities like Haystack.

The project is expected to take four to five years. Additionally, the removal of black spruce and regrowth of birch and aspen will enhance moose habitat and offer expanded backcountry reactional opportunities.

CONTACT: Fairbanks Area Forestry Fire Management Officer Gordon Amundson, (907) 451-2636, gordon.amundson@alaska.gov or Fairbanks Area Forester Matt Stephens, (907) 451-2601, matthew.stevens@alaska.gov.

Categories: AK Fire Info

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