More Alaska firefighters headed to the Lower 48

Posted: Sunday, August 19, 2001

FAIRBANKS (AP) -- More Alaska fire crews are headed to the Lower 48 to help firefighters battling blazes in Washington and Oregon.

The five 20-person emergency firefighter crews boarded a plane at Fort Wainwright early Thursday. They will be followed by five more crews on Saturday.

A 36-member incident management team left Wednesday to help manage the firefighting efforts. This team is a mixture of U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management and state Division of Forestry personnel from across the state.

Sue Christensen, the acting state logistics coordinator, said 200 other workers have been sent Outside so far, filling in a variety of jobs. Only a skeleton crew is left at the Alaska Inter-agency Coordination Center in Fairbanks.

The latest crews were brought in to Fairbanks from Kaltag, Huslia, Ambler, Chevak and Shungnak. They made their way to the coordination center in Oregon. From there they will be dispatched to a 3,000-acre fire near Leavenworth, Wash., and to the Bailey Fire near Tonasket, Wash.

Five crews that left at the beginning of the week were assigned to fight fires in Oregon.

Last year all of Alaska's 73 emergency firefighter crews got a chance to fight fires in the Lower 48, bringing in roughly $9.4 million in wages, according to the Division of Forestry. This year there are 67 crews available to join the 10 that are already on the lines.

Wildfires were burning across more than a half-million acres in 10 drought-parched Western states. The National Interagency Fire Center in Boise, Idaho, said 21,000 firefighters were fighting 42 major fires.

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