Senator Mark Begich visited incident command at Skyview High School for the Funny River fire last week. He attended press briefings, toured the operations center and spoke about future plans for dealing with this type of disaster.
Begich says he’s especially invested in this type of incident because of his position in various federal agencies. He says he plans to evaluate the response to and management of the Funny River fire within the FEMA committee. But, he says, in the bigger picture, this fire is also useful in terms of looking at how to mitigate future disasters across the country.
“And are we prepared?" he asked. "It’s only May. This is not the fire season. So the real question is, as the fire season starts to kick up not only here in Alaska, but across the country, are we going to have the right kind of equipment and [be] ready to attack these kinds of issues?”
In Soldotna, he planned to speak with members of the interagency management team. Once the fire is contained, he says he’ll also be looking for feedback from the community. Begich says that feedback will be very important in learning how to handle similar situations. He says he’s the management team has coordinated well, but there are always ways to improve.
“I think through the hearing we’ll hold, through this incident discussion, talking with folks here, that will give us a better understanding of what we need to help the state," he said. "if the state needs any additional help. But also, from the federal government, what do we need to be ready for and how do we need to be prepared?”
While there are wildfires every year in Alaska, this state is not typically known for this type of natural disaster. Begich says he can see a change in the environment and the seasons. So, he says, Alaska needs to plan ahead.
He says it’s through collaborative efforts that Alaska, and the country. will be well-prepared for next time. Whenever that may be.