The Alaska Incident Support Cache, located at BLM Alaska Fire Service (BLM AFS) facilities on Fort Wainwright, Alaska is one of 15 National Interagency Support Caches in the U.S. This is a national cache, that keeps $18 million on hand, but there are many smaller fire warehouses, with a limited amount of supplies throughout the state, operated by Alaska Division of Forestry and BLM AFS to support fire incidents.
“When the Smokejumper sirens sound, planes start flying, and jumpers are jumping, we know we are in it,” said Warehouse Cache Manager John Powe.
In 2022, the Cache issued $16.2 million in supplies and counting to support firefighting efforts. Over 319 miles of hose, 1,680 nozzles, 91,000 Meals Ready to Eat, and 218,000 batteries have been issued.
Equipment issued heads out by plane, boat or truck to fires across Alaska. Due to Alaska’s remoteness, a majority of supplies are flown in by helicopter and even dropped by paracargo – boxes shrink wrapped onto pallets and pushed out the back of a smokejumper plane where they float to the ground thanks to large, cargo parachutes.
As fires downsize and back haul equipment, the cache will refurbish non-perishable items and get it, “back in the fight.” Mountains of dirty hose, finicky pumps and dull chainsaws get some TLC through the Cache before being re-issued.
To keep up with the demand, 52 personnel pack supply kits and refurbish equipment to keep firefighters in the field fed and equipped to battle one of Alaska’s busiest fire seasons.
After Alaska’s fire season winds down, the Cache often sends equipment south to help with a busy fire season if needed.