USA — More than 30 employees of the Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) are in Alaska this week helping crews there deal with an outbreak of large wildfires that have consumed more than 270,000 acres. Responding to a mutual aid request last week, DNR employees began arriving in Alaska over the Memorial Day weekend.
We are pleased to help our neighbor to the north in their time of need without diminishing our capacity to respond quickly to wildfire threats here in Washington State, said Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark.
Dry weather and higher-than-normal temperatures following a dry winter have helped raise fire risks in throughout interior Alaska. DNR crew members traveling to Alaska will help crews there with a range of firefighting support tasks, from coordinating aviation to operating equipment on the fire lines.
DNR employees who are trained to manage and suppress wildland fires are accepting assignments to go to the aid of Alaskan crews, where they are dealing with at least eight large fires and dozens of smaller ones, said Joe Shramek, director of DNR s Resource Protection Division.
Through mutual aid agreements, DNR is reimbursed for the costs of sending its crews to help fight fires in another state. DNR s fire response includes participating in multi-agency incident management teams that can be dispatched to other states if they are not needed in Washington State. Each year, DNR employees are available to assist firefighters in other states; in return, those states pay their costs and also provide personnel to Washington State when authorities here request assistance.
In addition to the 30 DNR staff assigned to Alaskan duty for up to two weeks, about two dozen seasonal firefighters employed by DNR were also dispatched.
DNR s fire mission During fire season, several hundred DNR employees who have other permanent jobs with the agency are trained and available to be dispatched to fires as needed, both in Washington State and elsewhere when requested. DNR also participates in Washington s coordinated interagency approach to firefighting in which several state and federal agencies share firefighting equipment, personnel, and other resources.
In addition to DNR employees, each fire season (April to October), the department hires about 375 seasonal workers and trains about 600 Department of Correction inmates who participate in the Washington Work Camps Program.
Administered by Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, DNR is the state s largest on-call fire department, and is responsible for preventing and fighting wildfires on 12.7 million acres of tribal, private, and state-owned forestlands.