49 Voices: Dennis Ricker of the Mat-Su

This week we’re hearing from Mat Su Valley resident Dennis Ricker. Ricker came to Alaska from Colorado in 1978 and was a wildland firefighter until he retired.

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Dennis Ricker of the Mat-Su (Photo by Wesley Early)
Dennis Ricker of the Mat-Su (Photo by Wesley Early)

RICKER: I went to school in Colorado. I came up here looking for a fisheries job and jumped into the wild-land fire game after that. Since about 1978, so a number of years over 30 years now.

Great people. Kind of a remote setting, kind of an urban setting. We kind of split our time to come in a see the grandkid in Anchorage, and then we go out to the valley and enjoy the environment out there. Lately we’ve jumped into the fat-tire bike craze, so we’ve been doing a lot of that in Willow and Nancy Lake and enjoying the trails here in Anchorage. They’re just fantastic.

I think the world is becoming a smaller place and I think things may surprise people from the lower 48 that Alaska’s not a lot different from a lot of the other places in the world. I’d say it’s more similar than not. People are similar. You know, people are people.
Things that are dissimilar… I think the environment is a little harsher than most places. Harsher than Arizona, California. But probably not as harsh as some of the adventurous folks that come from Minnesota and up that way too. I think there’s an independence, if you want to call it a pioneer spirit. I think it’s a community of diverseness, if that’s a word, I guess diversity. And yet it’s people that get along. So that’s what attracts me to this place too. It’s a place where people can argue but still talk.

We are a lot closer to government up here, I think. Just because of the smaller nature of the beast, you know. I think only in Alaska could you walk around in the trails and tie in with people you see involved in the community, involved in issues, involved in the government. Go to a Fourth of July parade in Seward and talk to Bill Walker maybe, before he was elected governor. Or being on a trail and talking to Tony Knowles [former Governor of Alaska].

Yeah, this is home here. We have family here, we have a daughter and a son and I doubt if they’ll ever leave. You know, they love it here. So you know, families grow and so I think we’ll stay here. Probably travel a little bit more, but yeah, we’ll hang out here.

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Wesley is a reporter for Alaska Public Media, covering primarily city government and Anchorage life. He previously worked at Alaska Public Media as a web editor, producer and education reporter before a two-year stint in Kotzebue, AK as News Director for KOTZ-AM.

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