Legislation permits wildfire training and employment for rural Alaskans

Fuel reduction projects can include

Alaska Native Firefighters – On the Line of Fire – Cooling – In Training in McGrath Photos by Mike MacMillan/AK Forestry Department

By Alaska Fire Information Officers

Alaska’s “Emergency Firefighters Act” – House 209 – signed into law June 20, 2022, by Governor Mike Dunleavy, enables the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection to train and hire prairie firefighters And the Project crews in rural areas.

Alaskan native wildfire crews have long been a vital part of Alaskan village life and culture, providing temporary employment to several hundred emergency firefighters (EFFs) throughout the summer months. But in recent years, the limited opportunities for village firefighters and rural firefighters have been daunting.

Alaska Prairie Firefighters EFF
Emergency Firefighter (EFF) candidates celebrate the end of their first week of training at McGrath DOF in 2022. Photo: Jane Boyd/Alaska Department of Forestry

The latest legislation is intended to ease many of the economic and logistical barriers to keeping rural fire crews throughout the bushfire season – which runs from April to August. House Bill 209 enables the Forestry Department to use firefighters in non-emergency capabilities – fuel reduction projects. Logging, brush cleaning, debris removal and burning piles helps crews learn valuable firefighting skills and build cohesion while earning a steady income.

“We want to keep people working in their communities,” said Orozco Andres, foreman of Helitak operations at McGrath Forestry. “Our goal is to create reliable jobs by investing in our workforce and building them with well-trained and hard-working firefighters.” Andres expects McGrath Forestry to train 20-30 new firefighters by the end of the year — a number he hopes will double in 2023.

Articles You Might Like

Share This Article

More Stories

Get Your Forest Fire Alerts

We track wildfires and news from satellites, newsbots and Tweets