The massive wildfire burning near Colorado Springs is a reminder to homeowners and first responders in Anchorage of how a similar emergency could easily happen here.
“The hot week we had with all the thunder and lightning, my mind is already like, ‘so is it going to hit on the hillside?’ That’s all it would take,” said Diana Hansen, who recently cleared trees near her hillside house.
The Anchorage Fire Department urges homeowners to clear defensible space and the municipality even offers free property inspections to show people what to remove. But the program called “Fire Wise” is apparently not that popular.
“I’d like to see more people take advantage of that free inspection service,” said John See, AFD forester.
Less than a dozen homeowners requested inspections this spring and summer, See said.
See, meanwhile has been updating fuel maps showing which parts of town are most likely to burn. AFD has special software that allows them to light a virtual fire, plug in certain weather conditions, and observe what happens.
“I think being able to run the simulation really gives you the perspective of the worst case scenario,” See said.
As for an evacuation plan, the municipal emergency operations center would determine where to send residents affected by a fire. The center has an agreement with the Anchorage School District to use school buildings.
Another concern for some homeowners is the lack of an Anchorage Fire Department helicopter. Grant funding for a chopper ran out a few years ago and AFD has been without a dedicated aircraft ever since.
According to See, AFD now relies on the Division of Forestry, which has fire helicopters in Palmer and Soldotna and they are “really only minutes away.”
Email Ted Land