Combating the Clear Fire

What makes the Clear Fire a type 2 incident
Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 8:00 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Covering a vast area, threatening multiple structures in a community, and utilizing crews from multiple agencies, the Clear Fire has achieved a type 2 incident status.

The Incident Command System (ICS) used by wildland fire fighters categorizes fires into 5 types similar to the Defense Ready Condition or DEFCON system utilized by the U.S. military. The ICS fire types range from 5 to 1, with 5 being the least severe and 1 the most severe -- again, just like DEFCON.

As Planning Section Chief, Darron Williams put it, a type 5 fire is “just a little, smaller fire that can be taken care of with just one engine.” As the numbers get smaller, the complexity of the fire increases. For type 3 fires, a written incident action plan is required before suppression and protection activities occur the next day. Continuing up the scale, type 2 and 1 fires are often very complex fires that have multiple agencies involved and many structures at risk.

As of right now, the Clear fire is at a type 2 status as it has over 480 personnel from multiple agencies working to put out the flames. Some of those agencies include the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and the Clear Space Force Station fire crew, just to name a few. The Clear fire fight is currently focused on both protecting the residential structures in the area and generally preventing the fire from spreading. The fire, however, has not reached a type 1 status primarily due to rural setting of Clear.

Many of the larger fires in California, despite being much smaller than the Clear Fire, do tend to reach a type 1 status. This is mostly due to the high amount and close proximity of at-risk structures, and a fire’s behavior factors.

Type 1 fires could happen in Alaska however, and most of the fires reaching a type 1 or type 2 status rarely start with such a high rating. Fires often start with a type 5 or 4 status, but can quickly grow into something more serious.

To evaluate the proper rating for a fire, firefighters run a complexity analysis. This helps the responding crews organize, plan and coordinate the needed resources and strategies to combat a blaze.

Looking at the development of the Clear Fire, Williams indicated the burn started as a type 4. He said the first responding agency “started out [with an] initial attack. They tried to get on it. They found that they needed to elevate to a type 3 incident. They did the complexity analysis, started to look at some other things, and it elevated to a type 2 incident - and that’s when we were called in to come and help assist.”

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