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Anchorage Fire Department, Team Rubicon work to help mitigate spruce bark beetle

Team Rubicon cuts down trees in Anchorage's Hillside neighborhood.
Team Rubicon cuts down trees in Anchorage's Hillside neighborhood.(KTUU)
Published: Jul. 30, 2021 at 9:31 PM AKDT
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - Wildfire season remains active in Alaska with 349 active fires burning as of Friday, according to the Division of Forestry. Team Rubicon, a veteran-founded and led nonprofit disaster response organization, is working with the Anchorage Fire Department and the firewise program to help mitigate the potential risk of wildfires around Anchorage.

On Thursday, volunteers from Team Rubicon were cutting down over a dozen trees infested with spruce bark beetles in the Hillside area.

“We want to concentrate on the areas that could be more affected by a wildfire event,” said Brian Dean, a fire marshall with the fire department. “We’re also looking at properties that are adjacent to large parklands, large forested parklands.”

With limited openings for new applications and priority for properties near forested areas, the Hillside is one of the areas of focus.

“We kind of skirted around the edges of a wildfire here, (and) we had a few big events over the years — and of course with our recent spruce bark beetle infestation, people are seeing the effects of that,” Dean said. “If we had a wildfire here on the Hillside, it could move catastrophically through the Hillside, and we want to take whatever steps we can to try and mitigate that.”

Dean said the amount of dead trees around Southcentral Alaska started to increase significantly last year, and now the area is experiencing what he calls an outbreak.

“Everybody’s seeing the spruce bark beetle all over the Hillside here, Eagle River, Mirror Lake, the Valley — it’s just going through Southcentral Alaska,” he said.

This year, Dean says there’s additional funding for firewise inspections thanks to grants received through the Division of Forestry. With that funding, the fire department and Team Rubicon are able to help residents living in the Municipality of Anchorage pay to take out dead trees surrounding their homes or properties, but only if they follow all recommendations from the fire department.

“We’ll reimburse people with funds expanded for this for tree removal up to a total of $500,” said Dean. “We might actually recommend taking out live trees that are too close to the property, looming up trees that are too close to the property, removing wood bark mulch, fixing chimneys and vents, and keeping your grass trimmed down to a low maintained status.”

Team Rubicon will host a community education event Saturday at Trinity Presbyterian Church from 11 a.m. until 3 p.m.

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