On May 27, when a much-needed rain descended upon Southcentral Alaska, residents of Tyonek saw the beginning of an end to a wildfire that had blazed for almost 10 days. The fire burned through 1,906 acres, causing a temporary evacuation of the village and displacing more than 100 residents for several days.
In response, several organizations and the community of Tyonek itself came together to fight the fire and help the people affected to get back on their feet.
“Since we are a rural community, our families have not only been fighting the fire alongside the firefighters, we have also been preparing meals and providing housing,” said Debra Call, Tyonek Native Corporation corporate administration director, in an email sent to the Tikahtnu Forum before the fire had been contained. “This is a very stressful time for all of us; however, it is so appreciated to have members of the Tikahtnu Forum stand beside us in our time of need.”
While Forum members like CIRI, Cook Inlet Tribal Council, Eklutna, Inc., Southcentral Foundation, Salamatof Native Assoc. and Tyonek Native Corporation donated to the Tyonek Fire Fund, Donita Slawson, tribal administrator for the Native village of Tyonek, tackled the difficulties of fighting a fire off the road system. As fire crews nearly doubled the local population of the village, Slawson organized efforts to fly in food, gas, other vehicle fluids and supplies into the area.
By May 28, the fire was 100 percent contained. Soon after, firefighters launched a “mop up” effort and warned locals of potential hazards like ash pits and standing dead trees that might fall.
As the community recovers, village administrators are taking the opportunity to help residents prevent future fires.
“At this point, we are connecting with federal and state authorities to make Tyonek a more fire-wise community,” says Slawson. “We’re bringing in resources to remove foliage, vehicles and debris near homes, and also supplying homes with fire extinguishers and smoke detectors.”
Tyonek residents and firefighters preparing to fight the wildfire. Courtesy of Tyonek.