Alaska Interagency Coordination Center in Fairbanks supports firefighting statewide

Published: Jul. 7, 2021 at 4:22 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - While firefighters and smoke jumpers are on the front lines fighting wildfires in Alaska, their efforts are being supported by an agency on Fort Wainwright.

Headquartered at Alaska Fire Service headquarters, the Alaska Interagency Coordination Center (AICC) allocates resources from around the state to ensure that those in the thick of it have the tools they need to protect lives and property.

The agency is comprised of around 20 employees.

Ray Crowe, Manager of the AICC, said the agency’s main mission is to support wildland firefighting. “We’re the main focal point for all logistical, tactical, statewide tactical shared resources. So our smokejumpers, our air attack planes, and our retardant planes and fire bosses... we coordinate their movement through this office to cover the entire state of Alaska.”

Crowe explained, “For example, if there was a fire out in McGrath and they’re looking for smokejumpers or anything like that, then they’d place the request up to us, and then we would make sure that we’re still covered throughout the entire state. Then we’d send down smokejumpers to help out with the fires.”

Jennifer Humphrey, Emergency Operations Coordinator with AICC said, “We are a huge state but we are small in the way of resources, so it makes more sense for us to pool our resources and manage them on an interagency basis, as opposed to having each agency do it individually.”

Sometimes, Alaska’s resources are stretched thin during fire season. Crowe said, “If it doesn’t look like we can support that here in Alaska, then we’ll see about getting those orders down to the lower-48 to help us out.”

Three suppression agencies are in charge of fighting wildland fires in Alaska.

The Chugach and Tongass National Forests are covered by the U.S. National Forest Service. The state of Alaska manages fires south of Fairbanks that aren’t in the two national forests. Meanwhile, the Bureau of Land Management and the Alaska Fire Service handle fires from Fairbanks north.

“It’s been a fairly steady but quiet, lower fire season... It looks like we’re not going to get to half a million acres this year,” Crowe said.

Against the back wall of the agency’s Fort Wainwright office is a large map of Alaska, with active fires pinned onto the map. Humphrey said the state’s land is divided into different protection levels to prioritize the allocation of resources. “Those are preestablished response levels, and so around areas of value at risk, we have critical areas, and those would be the top priority for a response.”

Resources are transferred mostly by air, but depending on conditions, other methods can be used. Humphrey said, “Periodically we use boats. In I think it was 2015, it was so smoky that we barged supplies to Tanana, because flying stuff to Tanana, where we had fires operating out of, wasn’t working.”

Those who witness a wildland fire are encouraged to call the AICC at 1-800-237-3633.

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