Alaskan communities awarded funding to mitigate wildfire risk

May 20, 2024

Alaska receives grants for wildfire mitigation efforts

As reported by the Alaska Division of Forestry & Fire Protection, Alaskan communities will receive $3,759,337 in the second round of funding through the USDA Forest Service’s Community Wildfire Defense Grant (CWDG) Program.

The grants aim to support the creation and implementation of Community Wildfire Protection Plans.

Communities given priority include low-income areas, regions recently impacted by disaster, and locations at risk of wildfires.

The State of Alaska, via the Division of Forestry & Fire Protection, has allocated planning funding for the Delta and Tok regions, each receiving $250,000.

Norm McDonald, Deputy Director of Fire Protection, said: “To support additional wildland fire mitigation in at-risk communities, the State of Alaska opted in to the CDWG program to allow local applicants the maximum resources and assistance from the Alaska Division of Forestry & Fire Protection.”

Tribal applicants receive grants

Funding from the CWDG program will also be awarded directly to three Tribal applicants to create new Community Wildfire Protection Plans.

Dillingham and Aleknagik will receive $250,000, Nenana $249,863, and Tetlin $129,000.

The second round of funding saw around 500 applications, requesting a total of $965 million.

Out of these, 158 projects from 31 states, 11 Tribes, and two territories were selected for the available funding of $250 million.

The Infrastructure and Jobs Act provides a total of $1 billion for the CWDG program over five years.

Grants will fund up to $250,000 for creating and updating Community Wildfire Protection Plans or conducting outreach and education, and up to $10 million for infrastructure and resilience projects.

The third round of funding will be announced in late summer 2024.

Implementation funding for Homer Electric Association

The Homer Electric Association has been awarded $2,630,474 in implementation funding.

This grant will support the execution of wildfire mitigation projects.

As the CWDG program progresses, communities and organizations are encouraged to apply for these funds to enhance wildfire protection measures.

Empowering diversity in Alaska’s wildfire response

As reported by the Alaska Division of Forestry & Fire Protection, a diverse cohort of twenty-eight cadets completed the Intermediate Wildfire Academy in Chugiak, equipping them with essential skills for wildfire management.

The cadets, hailing from remote Alaskan villages, are now prepared to initiate fuels reduction projects and address the upcoming wildfire season.

Cadet and Gannett Glacier Crew Member Torin Blaker said: “The biggest lesson I learned from this Academy, which is even more valuable than the firefighting skills that I developed, is that every single person that you meet is fighting some sort of internal battle.

“Treat everyone with respect that they’ve earned for getting to the point where they are standing before you.”

Collaboration in wildfire management training

The Intermediate Wildfire Academy featured a team of nine instructors from Alaska, the Kansas Forest Service, and Colorado’s Emergency Response Agencies.

These experts enriched the training curriculum, focusing on advanced firefighting techniques, leadership development, and incident command system implementation.

Matt Jones, the Academy’s Operations Chief, highlighted the importance of the cadets: “The fact of the matter is, there is a very small percentage of the general population that want to, or can operate in our ‘office’.

“These cadets are the future and without them, our ability to protect our natural resources and communities will be greatly diminished.”

FSJA comment

The recent funding allocations and training initiatives in Alaska highlight the ongoing efforts to enhance wildfire resilience across the state.

By prioritizing at-risk and low-income communities, the USDA Forest Service’s Community Wildfire Defense Grant (CWDG) Program aims to provide crucial support for wildfire mitigation.

The direct funding to Tribal applicants ensures that these communities can develop and implement their own Community Wildfire Protection Plans, tailored to their specific needs and challenges.

The training of new cadets through the Intermediate Wildfire Academy is another significant step in strengthening Alaska’s wildfire response capabilities.

The diverse backgrounds and experiences of the cadets, combined with comprehensive training and support, equip them with the skills necessary to manage and mitigate wildfire risks effectively.

Collaboration across various agencies and the inclusion of advanced training techniques further enhance the overall preparedness of these future wildfire responders.

As Alaska continues to face the challenges posed by wildfire seasons, the integration of funding, planning, and trained personnel will be vital in safeguarding communities and natural landscapes.

The ongoing support and resources provided through programs like the CWDG and training academies are essential components in building a resilient and effective wildfire management strategy for the state.

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