Alaska gets more help to deal with wildfires across the state
More firefighters arrived in Alaska to battle wildfires across the state. The latest batch includes some from California.
"They're pretty much just like any other firefighter, they're just the elite crews that are on the ground," U.S. Forest Service Spokesman Mike Leckness said.
It's a chance for these, and other firefighters, to return a favor.
"Over the previous years, I know we've had crews from here in Alaska down supporting firefighting efforts in California, Montana, Oregon," Leckness said. "So it's kind of nice for us to come up and help out."
There's no shortage of areas around the state that need it.
The Swan Lake Fire near Sterling has burned more than 100,000 acres since lightning sparked it June 5. Firefighters have let the fire spread to portions of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge that have not burned since 1947, according to AK Fire Info.
"We're creating a very large fuel break that will protect all of the communities for years, and years, even decades to come, now that we've cleaned out some of that volatile vegetation," said public information officer Jonathan Ashford.
Sterling Elementary School is where Ashford and other firefighters set up their command post. It's also the place where they can catch up on sleep, a shower or grab a snack.
"Some of the folks here, they're spiked out, they don't have internet, they don't have phone reception," Ashford said. "It may go days or even weeks before they have a chance to talk to their families."
Most firefighters will spend 14 days in Alaska, some will be in the state for 21 days.
Their efforts have not gone unappreciated, and folks around Sterling have expressed their gratitude, and firefighters appreciate it.
"We're often out there, behind the scenes, way out there, doing what it is we do. Typically speaking, we're not interfacing with the public much," said Shawn Borgen of Montana's Flathead Hotshots. "You see those thank you cards, and the notes, the little poster boards. That stuff, it actually, really touches your heart."
There are currently close to 200 active wildfires across Alaska. Wildfires have burned more than 1.5 million acres this season.
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