The federal-government shutdown has entered its 13th day, and the Alaska Fire Service like numerous other federal agencies has run out of money and furloughed all but essential employees. And although wildfires are unlikely to bust out anytime soon, the shutdown is hampering the firefighting agency’s planning and preparation for the coming fire season.
Wildland firefighting may be the last thing on the minds of most Alaskans in the middle of winter. But for workers with state and federal agencies charged with managing the fires in Alaska, the busy season is just beginning.
“There’s a lot of work that goes on behind the scenes, even in December and January,” says Tim Mowry, a spokesman for the Alaska Division of Forestry, the state firefighting agency that works closely with the federal Alaska Fire Service. Mowry shares an office on Fort Wainwright with his federal counterparts – but he says he hasn’t seen them much for the past couple of weeks.