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|CONTACT:||Ray Massey • email@example.com
P.O. Box 21628, Juneau AK 99802
|August 8, 2008|
Snow Ranger, Boat Captain, Avalanche Forecaster, Recreation Technician, Lifesaver- Alaska Forest Service Employee of the Year
JUNEAU, Alaska- What does it take to become the Employee of the Year for the Alaska Region Forest Service? Could it be the professionalism and leadership of a snow ranger, or a certified boat captain? Could it be the technical expertise of an avalanche forecaster or recreation technician? Better yet, could it be that you are a lifesaver?
Matt Murphy, a recreation technician on the Chugach National Forest Glacier Ranger District, fits all of those descriptions and was recently named Employee of the Year for the Forest Service Alaska Region. Murphy, a Virginia native and second generation Forest Service employee, only began working for the District three years ago.
As a recreation technician, Murphy is responsible for the successful renovation of many District cabins and trails. Based on his research and design, wood stoves in remote public cabins have been replaced with cheaper, reliable and more efficient propane stoves. During summer months, Murphy captains vessels for Agency operations in Prince William Sound.
Murphy’s work as a snow ranger and avalanche predictor take up his winter months and lead to many of his contacts with winter sports enthusiasts on the national forest. His educational programs and public contact helped maintain a balance between motorized and non-motorized users. By increasing the quality and number of snowmobile trails in motorized areas, Murphy decreased the users in closed areas and high avalanche hazard areas.
Murphy reaches thousands of users with his daily morning backcountry avalanche predictions as lead forecaster for the Avalanche Information Center. He put his knowledge and leadership capabilities to use during the rescue of an avalanche victim February 23, 2008, in Turnagain Pass 45 miles south of Anchorage, Alaska.
Murphy was skiing during his day off when he witnessed an avalanche that buried another skier. Upon reaching the scene, he formed a 20-person search team and directed their efforts. Once he picked up the missing skier’s avalanche beacon, Murphy assisted in digging the skier out from under four feet of snow. The victim was unconscious but sputtered when Murphy cleared his airway. The skier had been buried for 25-35 minutes.
“I was surprised to find him alive, it is statistically rare to survive that,” said Murphy. “You have all of the knowledge and training in your head. It (rescue) doesn’t always work out… but this time it did.”