GARDEN CITY, Kan. (KSNW) — The Kansas State Fire Module has been in Alaska working for 14 days, helping with the fires.
“We got here on Saturday,” Bryce Haverkamp said. “They already had a couple of small fires that we went and worked, and then currently we are patrolling, and then staying in a ready state to respond to the next fire.”
The module comprises three Garden City firefighters, three Olathe firefighters and five people from the Kansas Forest Service.
This is the first time the module has been sent out this year, Haverkamp with the Kansas Forest Service says the timing has to be right with the need and the availability of crews.
The team is centered around Tok, Alaska, helping with Jan Lake and Mansfield Creek Fires.
Haverkamp says the fires are hard to get to because of the remote areas and road systems, so you can’t get to the fires with trucks.
“They use helicopters to move things around,” Haverkamp said. “So if there’s a fire it’s usually in a remote area hard to access. So you’re going to fly in with helicopters and then land the crew and cut your way through through all the vegetation. So when there’s a fire, it’s a lot of chainsaw work to just cut through to get access to the fire.”
Haverkamp and Chris Talmadge with the Garden City Fire Department say they are learning various new skills because Alaska’s fuel type and vegetation are very different.
They are also learning new tactics, gaining aviation experience and experience in logistical support.
“Having such a diversity of things to do out here is really beneficial to not only coming out and helping Alaska, but as far as the training aspect goes for our crew, and in the end result of that is going to make us more proficient and better equipped,” Chris Talmadge with the Garden City Fire Department said.
“As firefighters, we have to be well versed in many different skill sets,” Haverkamp said. “So when we get faced with different challenges that we may not typically see, we have that kind of a skill set we can we can tap back into.”
Haverkamp says Kansas receives help from other states in the spring, so this is a way to give back.
Before the fires, Alaska was seeing a historically low fire season.
“They weren’t very active,” Haverkamp said. “So some of their crews were being sent to other places and specifically Canada, and then all of a sudden you know in the last seven to 10 days, it’s just really dried out, and they started getting some fires here and there.”