The Tongass National Forest in Southeast Alaska presents many challenges for fire managers. The Forest lies in a temperate rain forest which would seem to indicate little or no fire activity. However, in the early summer the area experiences periods of drying conditions that can quickly lead to high fire danger. During this relatively brief period of time it is essential that the Forest bring additional fire staff on in order to provide necessary suppression capability. The challenge becomes how to maintain a fully staffed initial attack force to cover the Tongass’ brief fire season, while keeping these resources fully engaged in fire activities the remainder of the year.

There are four engine modules located on various Ranger Districts on the Tongass National Forest. The module leaders are highly motivated and are dedicated to providing initial attack coverage on their home units, as well as ensuring that their crews have opportunities to participate in the nation-wide suppression effort.

The module leaders have recently taken action to coordinate with other units to ensure that the Tongass modules’ effectiveness is maximized. They have arranged to temporarily reposition one of the engines to the Kenai Peninsula of the Chugach NF. This will take place from June 30th until July 14th, when the Tongass fire season begins to taper off, but the Chugach fire season is still in full swing. Then on July 15th that engine will be repositioned to the Mt Baker-Snoqualmie NF in R6 in anticipation of an active fire season in the Northwest. A rotating schedule of crew members will be assigned to keep the engine staffed.

These simple movements might seem fairly routine to crews in the lower 48, but the logistical challenges in Alaska make this quite an undertaking. The engine must be moved by marine ferry which means four to five days for transport. By putting forth this extra effort, the Alaska module leaders have ensured that they will provide suppression coverage for their home units while at the same time improving the overall effectiveness of their people and resources.

For more information contact: Ron Haugen, Chugach/Tongass FMO, 907-743-9435, rhaugan@fs.fed.us