Firefighters from Rural Alaska

My nephew, Marvin Yatlin, Jr. of Huslia, went out firefighting for the first time this month. Photo by Teri Vent
My nephew, Marvin Yatlin, Jr. of Huslia, went out firefighting for the first time this month. Photo by Teri Vent

Each year, people from all over Alaska go out firefighting. Firefighting jobs are especially important to rural Alaskans because of the lack of jobs. It supplements the economy in smaller communities. It also helps communities across Alaska and other states to have firefighters who are willing and able to help fight fires.

“A lot of people depend on the fire season to get them through the winter or to purchase snow machines, boats, and four wheelers, etc.” -Loretta Linus

If you are over 18 and physically able to work, you can go out firefighting. You must pass the pack test first. The Alaska Division of Forestry has been offering the pack tests in Fairbanks. Villagers can also take the pack test. There are different levels of the pack test. It is an endurance test where you have to carry a 45 lb. pack for three miles in less than 45 minutes. Learn more from the Alaska Fire Service.

My friend, Loretta Linus, recently took the pack test in Fairbanks. She says, “I don’t carry the pack. I only take the walking test for timekeeping or any other clerical work.” Loretta hopes to get a job in Fairbanks. The pack test was administered in villages along the Koyukuk River and other rural communities recently. Crews from various Alaskan communities are now fighting fires in southcentral Alaska. Sometimes the Alaskan firefighters help to fight fires in the lower 48 and vise versa.

Residents of interior Alaska took the pack test in early May in Fairbanks. Photo by Loretta Linus
Residents of interior Alaska took the pack test in early May in Fairbanks. Photo by Loretta Linus
Hughes residents take the pack test in May. Photo by Tal Beetus Baker
Hughes residents take the pack test in May. Photo by Tal Beetus Baker

Doing the pack test each spring in the village is almost like a rite of passage. I have many friends and relatives who have successfully passed the pack test and gone out firefighting over the years. I never took the test and haven’t gone out firefighting. Right after high school, I was fortunate to find other jobs and attend college. In some ways, I feel like I missed out. When people come back from firefighting, they always have the funniest and most interesting stories to tell.

“It is an opportunity every year to ensure employment for those who are are unemployed during the winter months. Plus it is fun and great way to stay in shape. There are also a lot of great training opportunities every spring for those who would like to advance, at AFS or DNR.”
– Tal Beetus Baker of Hughes

A crew from Huslia is fighting the fire at the Funny River. Some of the firefighters found a wolf den with pups. The mother wolf either abandoned them due to the fire or perished. Check out the story on KTUU Channel 2 News.

I wish there were no forest fires, but am glad Alaskans can get much needed jobs for the summer. Firefighting  allows people to work together, earn money and have fun. They really have to work together to stay safe. Working together so closely for weeks is a great way to build camaraderie. I look forward to more fun firefighting stories from friends and relatives this summer.

 

0 thoughts on “Firefighters from Rural Alaska”

  1. Thankfully these brave heroes are getting the Kenai fires under control. I was in Palmer last week and the visibility was down to less than a mile with a myriad of health warnings issued by NWS. I was in Wasilla yesterday and there was no smoke so there’s been solid improvement. Over the Memorial Day weekend we had smoke and the fire smell all the up here in Talkeetna!

    1. Thanks for the comment. The smoke and fires seem to be more common as you go further north. It seems unusual to have such big fires in southcentral Alaska, but not surprising with the type of weather we have had lately. Maybe we need a good snow. 🙂

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