Dunleavy declares disaster for Kivalina fire

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Gov. Mike Dunleavy declared a state disaster emergency for the Kivalina fire that destroyed two community buildings and damaged electrical and communication lines in Kivalina. The disaster declaration helps fund emergency response efforts and activates the state’s Public Assistance and Individual Assistance Disaster Recovery Programs. 

Kivalina is an Inupiat community in House District 40. It is located between the Chukchi Sea and Kivalina River at the tip of an 8-mile barrier reef. Subsistence, including whaling, is a major portion of the local economy and the village is the only one in the region where people hunt bowhead whale. On April 9, Kivalina’s Bingo Hall caught fire. Despite committed local firefighting efforts, the fire spread to a nearby community building and threatened the community’s power plant. The temperatures in Kivalina were a high of 35 and a low of 5 fahrenheit.

While the fire destroyed the Bingo Hall and damaged the community building, local fire response saved the power plant and other structures. Damage to Alaska Village Electric Cooperative power distribution systems resulted in a community wide power outage with over 250 persons sheltering at the school overnight on backup power generation. Severe weather complicated response efforts by the City of Kivalina and the Northwest Arctic Borough.

The Northwest Arctic Borough, Red Dog Mine, Alaska Village Electrical Cooperative, State Fire Marshal, State Emergency Operation Center, along with other agencies, are in communication with the community and engaged in supporting response and recovery. Power was restored on Wednesday to all but 15 homes immediately near the fire area. 

“I stand behind the village of Kivalina as we coordinate the response to the damage experienced from the recent fire and the impacts on their power system,” said Rep. Thomas Baker. “My office coordinated with the Governor’s office in requesting a Disaster Declaration, and I am thankful to the administration for the speed with which this was approved. I will be coordinating with state, city, and Tribal organizations to facilitate the recovery and rebuilding efforts of the lost and damaged infrastructure.”

Dunleavy’s declaration comes in response to the City of Kivalina and the Northwest Arctic Borough’s declaration of disaster requesting state assistance. 

The disaster declaration activates the state’s disaster Public Assistance, Individual Assistance, and Temporary Housing programs. The Public Assistance program reimburses communities and jurisdictions for emergency response costs, emergency protective measures, and can fund repair of critical infrastructure damaged by the declared disaster event. 

The state’s Individual Assistance programs provides grants to individuals and families to help repair damaged housing, meet critical needs, and to provide temporary housing.

18 COMMENTS

    • Have some respect city boy – you’re better than that. Kudos to Rep Baker for speaking out and the hard working village fire crew. Glad the fire didn’t spread more than it did.

    • So killing whales and living off tax payers is what supports this place.
      It really does look like a prison.
      Im not able to understand the desire to live like that.

  1. Hopefully they can recover quickly and get their material order on the earliest barge. Kind of devastating for the community to lose any structure in north west no matter what it is.

  2. Glad for the prompt action by everyone from the governor on down. Pretty isolated. My prayers are with them for a swift and complete recovery.

  3. kivalina has one of the best hunting spots on the brooks range mountains on the chuckchi sea. Best Dolly Varden in the state, best caribou, salmon, white fish, Tom cods, moose, king crab, sea muscles, salmonberries, blueberries, blackberries, cranberries, seafoods they catch, tundra tea, the list goes on. Red Dog Mine 15 minutes away employs people from this place along with the majority of village people. These people live off the land, and work at Red Dog Mine and use their own stock dividends for supplies for hunting and fishing. Not everything is bad in the villages like people paint it out to be. Some people would rather be there than in the city. Hope they relocate soon to get those buildings up in the new place.

  4. What’s sad about some negative comments concerning this village or others is that if you were stranded-they would help you. If you were lost in the tundra their search and rescues would go overtime to find you. If you needed food they would bring you meat and fish. Not everyone is bad in the villages, there are good people that live there too like everywhere else. If the world was ending I’d rather be in a village than in the city where people would actually help you survive and share their food and wood with you.

  5. If they have been there for thousands of years, living at one with the land, why do they need a community building, a bingo hall, and a power plant?
    Are the community building, bingo hall, and power plant thousands of years old?
    No?
    Isn’t that then “Cultural Appropriation”?

  6. The community halls in villages provide a building for whole village feasts to celebrate with potlatches, holidays, and for opening a coffee spot for visitors for Easter celebrations. It’s a place where everyone gathers and eats, share foods, celebrate, feed visitors. The bingo hall is a place for making a small profit to provide funding for search and rescue, money to provide food for community events, and the electricity is much needed for school because everyone is in need of an education in the villages too, and it isn’t cultural appropriation. Nobody uses that word anymore, at least not those born after 2000. But us old dinosaurs born before 1980 seem to have a mental illness called racism that is getting annoying to the younger generation who maybe can’t understand that deficit us older folks have because it’s out of style. 💁🏻‍♀️

  7. What did you earn, what were you given, and what was taken from you? If you can answer those questions honestly you might have a chance.

    • We are speaking of a town in our state. It is remote and deserves the same consideration that any town that is hard hit within this state. To quibble about this means that you are probably not from here, nor do you understand how Alaskans are dependent upon each other.
      We have children to educate and people to keep healthy. We have built schools and buildings which make life better across the state. And when those buildings were built, a lot of nomadic movements were given up for their/our children’s future. In Anchorage, we are about to spend lots of money to keep buildings in working order, even though we have lost population. What would you do to a village that has lost?

  8. Kivalina lands is vast in natural resources untouched. If Red Dog Mine ceases-there are untapped resources surrounding Kivalina. Aside from the abundance of hunting, fishing, subsistence-these people make a career out of living off the land and consider themselves rich by earning their keep as career hunters. It’s akin to farming. Nobody talks about how these villagers got cheated out of royalties from the Red Dog Mine Portsite Operations that sits on Kivalina land producing millions and that should have produced royalty checks for each tribal member from the Native Village of Kivalina and these people don’t fight for that and let it go. You won’t see them protesting but going on with living. Nobody talks about hunting being a legit career that takes a lifetime of commitment hunting, skinning, fishing, storing, and it’s non stop the seasons of harvest that akin to farming and it’s a full time job for those most dedicated to this lifestyle. Nobody talks about that because most of those things are not recognized by a materialistic world and measured by money but rather a satisfaction of your soul that this is enough. It is enough and it makes my soul happy.

  9. Kivalina is surrounded by a cash flow unlike Alaskas ever seen. That area is a legit virgin untouched land with massive natural resources. One day any negative comments about these humble but tough cookies will be choked on by watching their good karma hit them like a jackpot. I’m all here for it, love cinderella stories, and these people deserve it and would share it with Alaska and any stranger visiting their town to feed. That’s 💯 Alaska right there.

  10. Take what you need and leave the rest. That is the difference between Kivalina and the materialistic world of the cities. It’s not stuff and conveniences that make a like satisfying. No, it is the satisfaction of living a good clean life and doing good in the community. That’s Kivalina every day. Their lifestyle makes them rich beyond any city dweller. The glorious scenery and simplicity pf their lives and the connections between families and community reward them many times over. Give them whatever they need. They would not hesitate to do the same for you.

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