Division of Forestry Fire and Aviation Program
The Division provides wildland fire protection services on over 150 million acres of land. The goal of the Fire and Aviation Program is to provide safe, cost-effective, and efficient fire protection services and related fire and aviation management activities on State, private, municipal lands, and lands negotiated through agreement, commensurate with the values at risk.
Fire management planning, preparedness, suppression operations, prescribed burning, and related activities are coordinated on an interagency basis. The Division of Forestry has cooperative agreements with the Departments of Agriculture and Interior, and numerous local government and volunteer fire departments to respond to wildland fires, reduce duplication of efforts, and share resources.
In 1984 the State of Alaska adopted the National Interagency Incident Management System Incident Command System concept for managing fire suppression. The Incident Command System (ICS) guiding principles are followed in all wildland fire management operations. All State of Alaska Departments adopted ICS in 1996 through the Governor's administrative order.
"In order to be ready when needed, you must also be ready when not needed." – Joe Stam, Chief of Fire and Aviation, Retired
Preparedness is one of the most important aspects of the Division's Fire and Aviation Program, which must ensure that wildland fire suppression resources are in a state of readiness to safely respond to and manage wildland fires that pose a threat to life, property, and resources. Personnel, facilities, training, and equipment are some of the support elements required for readiness. Preparedness allows for more successful response, therefore reducing the risk of escaped fires and saving the State money.
Fire Suppression Operations
A successful immediate response or initial attack (IA) is cost effective. A trained, experienced, and well-equipped workforce is essential to locate and respond to fires while they are small. Lands designated in the Alaska Interagency Wildland Fire Management Plan as Critical and Full Management Options received the highest-priority for suppression response.
Seasonal employees are the backbone of the fire suppression program, allowing the Division to expand in number during the fire season. In addition to its permanent seasonal workforce, the firefighting community relies heavily Emergency firefighters, hired on an as-needed, short-term basis, and utilized to augment the permanent workforce. The Division's fire crews produce seasoned firefighters with extensive knowledge of fire behavior and suppression operations, remote logistics, and incident management. When quickly mobilized, crews can help slow a fires' growth before it becomes larger, more complex, and increasingly expensive.
Much of the land within State protection is remote, inaccessible, and requires the use of airplanes and helicopters. The Division contracts the majority of its aircraft, including air tankers, helicopters, and fixed wing aircraft. Close coordination between the State and Federal agencies maximizes the use of aviation resources.