Every spring, crews on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson light the training ranges on fire, to prevent fires later in the year.

“It’s a lot of work. Wild land is not easy and it’s a lot of grass. A lot of acreage that we gotta burn down,” said Grant Kopplin, a firefighter with the JBER Fire Department.

It’s Kopplin’s third year with the department, which is teaming up with the Forest Service and the Division of Forestry, who are experts in wildland fire management. JBER assistant fire chief Andrew Lambert says working with them is good for his staff.

“Seeing how they do business, how they communicate, their strategies and tactics, very, very helpful for us,” said Lambert.

“I really like getting to work with the Forestry and the other wildland crews and it’s just fun to get to get out and do some stuff we don’t usually get to do,” said Kopplin.

The crews burn the ranges so service members can train there without fear of accidentally sparking a wildfire when they shoot off rounds of ammunition.

“There’s all the dry, cured grass on the ground and any kind of tracer fire or start that gets into that can burn pretty quickly and move pretty fast into the tree line,” said Lambert.

Kopplin says it feels good, knowing their efforts are keeping service members safe while protecting the base.

“Being part of the military, it’s good to know that they’re able to do their training and at the same time we’re preventing anything big from happening and losing some of the forest we have on base,” he said.

It took crews about a week to burn all the ranges on JBER. The smoke was visible from the Glenn Highway on some of the days. The controlled burns happen annually.

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