I have been writing letters to the News-Miner about the demise of the village wildland emergency firefighting crews for about two years in hopes of drawing more attention to this particular issue. In the past 15 years, the EFF crews went from a 72-village rotation to about a 34-
village rotation. In short, the EFF crews do not get fire assignments like they used to. A village crew is considered lucky to get just one fire assignment.
Why am I concerned? Because keeping the villages economically strong will keep the Interior economy strong. Villagers purchase all their goods from Fairbanks, including from the Tanana Valley State Fair. This includes big-ticket items, such as snowmachines and outboard motors, hotel stays, cab rides, school supplies and everyday staples.
Every EFF assignment, whether for the Alaska Department of Natural Resources or the federal Bureau of Land Management, involves a 20-man crew, bringing about $80,000 to the local economy.