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Alaska communities to get federal money for reducing wildfire threat

Posted: Tuesday, January 09, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Some of the money Congress appropriated to reduce the danger of wildfires on federal lands may go for brush clearing, tree thinning or education efforts in Alaska.

The federal government last week published a list of 38 communities around the state considered high-risk areas. Fairbanks and North Pole made the list, along with several Interior villages. Anchorage and communities in the Matanuska-Susitna region also are listed.

Stephen Botti, fire program planning manager with the National Park Service in Boise, Idaho, said the list ''was all done by Alaskans -- either the state or federal officials.''

Congress approved $240 million for this fiscal year in response to fires on federal lands near cities and towns in the West.

Half the money will be given to agencies under the Department of Interior -- the National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service -- while the other half will go to the U.S. Forest Service, a branch of the Department of Agriculture.

The agencies still are working out a system to determine which areas are at greatest risk, Botti said. He didn't know how Alaska communities would rank compared with those in the Lower 48.

''It's really hard to say because each state used their own process to assess risk up to this point,'' he told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. ''We'd like to focus the money where it could do the most immediate good.''

Botti said the 1996 fire that scorched hundreds of homes near Big Lake indicates Alaska has some dangerous areas.

''There's a documented problem there that would rise pretty high on the list, I would think.''

The money mostly will be used on federal land for brush clearing or tree thinning to remove fuel near communities, Botti said. Those communities, though, might get grants for educational efforts or for clearing on private land, he said.

Nationwide, about 4,700 communities were identified, Botti said.

Alaska communities identified in the list, published in the Federal Register Jan. 4, include the following:

Alcan, Allakaket, Anchor Point, Anchorage, Big Delta, Big Lake, Butte, Clam Gulch, College, Cooper Landing, Delta Junction, Eagle River, Fairbanks, Fox River, Fritz Creek, Fort Greely, Funny River, Happy Valley, Homer, Houston, Kalifonsky, Kasilof, Kenai, Lazy Mountain, Lime Village, McGrath, Meadow Lakes, Moose Creek, Nikiski, Ninilchik, North Pole, Northway, Northway Junction, Nulato, Salamatof, Soldotna, Tanacross and Tok.



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