MAT-SU—Gov. Sarah Palin has proclaimed the week of May 14-20 as Wildland Fire Prevention and Preparedness Week. In her proclamation, Palin states, "Public awareness of wildland fire prevention practices and preparedness measures is essential for public safety." The governor encourages all citizens to partake this week in individual efforts and community programs that reduce the risk and threat of wildland fire to their homes, property and communities.
Wildland fire is one of the essential natural processes that maintain healthy forest and wildlife habitat in Alaskan ecosystems. However, unwanted human-caused wildland fires occur each year in areas surrounding towns, villages and small communities where homes and businesses intermingle with undeveloped lands. The more populated and closer a community is to fire prone areas, the greater the need for individual and community involvement. Managing risk and threats from those fires is a joint responsibility of individuals and communities.
During the 1996 Miller's Reach fire near Big Lake, more than 400 structures were lost when the fire overwhelmed firefighting efforts, yet more than 1,000 threatened structures were saved. Many were saved through the efforts of firefighters and community members, and many more as a result of preparations made by community members. Programs such as Firewise have been developed to assist homeowners and community groups in reducing the loss of lives and property. It focuses on pre-fire preparedness and community education and involvement. Firewise provides tips for building and maintaining homes and communities in a way that is compatible with our natural surroundings. Site considerations, access, signing, water supply locations, use of smoke detectors and landscaping are addressed.
To participate in Wildland Fire Prevention and Preparedness Week, contact the Matanuska-Susitna Borough Wildfire Mitigation Program at 373-8823 to schedule a free Firewise Risk Rating. Additional information about the Firewise program and defensible space around your home and community is located on the Firewise web site (http://www.firewise.org).
Firewise Alaska information, found at (http:fire.ak.blm.gov) contains steps and recommendations to improve the protection of your property from a fire in your neighborhood.