Security for the Minto Lakes Fire

Published: Jul. 22, 2022 at 6:06 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - While firefighters and law enforcement are often seen working together in urban areas, the relationship between fire crews and law enforcement is a little different out on wildfires.

Almost all large fires, especially those that are complex, have a security unit in place to protect the firefighters and all of the other resources that are utilized in the fight. This work is usually assigned to federal, state or municipal police depending on the location of the fire and the level of security needed. While on assignment, these officers perform duties such as tending to both the base camps and field camps, as well as other locations when needed.

While the biggest danger beyond the fires in Alaska might seem like the wildlife, animals remain a low concern for the security team. Their bigger concern is theft and tampering. Camilo Gonzalez, a federal officer for the Bureau of Land Management, was assigned to be the security manager for the Minto Lakes Fire. He said that blaze is particularly challenging to him because “usually in a large scale fire like this, there’s typically a lot of closures, [areas] that are closed to the public. This fire still has a lot of open areas where the public actually can participate and walk around. So that makes it a little unique where the public does get to get a close encounter with fire operations.”

Due to the large areas of public access, the need for security on the Minto Lakes Fire has been heightened, and the team has not been without incident. Gonzalez elaborated on how the conditions impact the job, saying it “presents a little bit of a challenge. The goal is to always provide a safe environment, but when people can get close to operations, it poses a risk to the equipment, the firefighters, and those recreating nearby.”

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