Location and Climate
Fairbanks is located in the heart of Alaska's Interior, on the banks of the Chena River in the Tanana Valley. By air, Fairbanks is 45 minutes from Anchorage and 3 hours from Seattle. It lies 358 road miles north of Anchorage. The community lies at approximately 64.837780° North Latitude and -147.716390° West Longitude. (Sec. 10, T001S, R001W, Fairbanks Meridian.) Fairbanks is located in the Fairbanks Recording District. The area encompasses 31.9 sq. miles of land and 0.8 sq. miles of water. Interior Alaska experiences seasonal temperature extremes. Average January temperatures range from -19 to -2; average July temperatures range from 53 to 72. Annual precipitation is 11.5 inches, with 67.8 inches of snowfall. Temperatures have been recorded as low as -62 in mid-winter, and as high as 96 in summer. During the winter months, if the temperature drops below -20 degrees Fahrenheit, ice fog can occur. Fairbanks is known for its lingering summer days. When the solstice arrives, there is more than 22 hours of daylight.
History, Culture and Demographics
Koyukon Athabascans have lived in this area for thousands of years. In 1901, Capt. E.T. Barnette established a trading post on the Chena River - "Barnette's Cache." A year later, gold was discovered 16 miles north of the post. The town grew as the Chena steamboat landing brought many prospectors during the Pedro Dome gold rush. Fairbanks was named in 1902 after Indiana Senator Charles Fairbanks, who became Vice President of the U.S. from 1905-1909. In 1903, Judge Wikersham moved the seat of the Third Judicial District from Eagle to Fairbanks. The population of the area continued to increase as Fairbanks became the hub of the Interior, with the addition of the court, government offices, a jail, a post office, and the Northern Commercial Company. Barnette was elected as the first Mayor of the City of Fairbanks in 1903, and established telephone service, fire protection, sanitation ordinances, electricity and steam heat. He also founded the Washington-Alaska Bank. By 1910, the official population had grown to 3,541, although more than 6,000 miners lived and worked their claims on creeks north of town. Ladd Field (now Fort Wainwright) was constructed in 1938. Construction of the Alcan Highway in the 1940s and the Trans-Alaska oil pipeline in the 1970s fueled growth and development.
The population of the community consists of 13.3% Alaska Native or part Native. The Fairbanks area is the second-largest population settlement in Alaska. During the 2000 U.S. Census, total housing units numbered 12,357, and vacant housing units numbered 1,282. Vacant housing units used only seasonally numbered 121. U.S. Census data for Year 2000 showed 14,463 residents as employed. The unemployment rate at that time was 10.88 percent, although 34.92 percent of all adults were not in the work force. The median household income was $40,577, per capita income was $19,814, and 10.5 percent of residents were living below the poverty level.
Facilities, Utilities, Schools and Health Care
Fifteen circulating pump stations distribute treated water throughout the greater Fairbanks area. City water, sewer and electric systems are operated by a private company. The Chena power site has four steam turbines fueled by coal, and one oil-fueled generator. Garbage collection services are provided by the City for a fee, and refuse is hauled to the Class 1 Borough landfill on South Cushman. Fort Wainwright operates its own landfill. Electricity is provided by Golden Valley Electric Association. There are 24 schools located in the community, attended by 10,373 students. Local hospitals or health clinics include Fairbanks Memorial Hospital (907-452-8181); Interior Community Health Center (907-455-4567); Fairbanks Regional PHN (907-452-1776); Chief Andrew Isaac Health Center (907-451-6682); Bassett Army Community Hospital/Ft. Wainwright (907-353-5563). The hospitals are qualified acute care facilities and State-certified Medevac services. Specialized Care: FNA Regional Center for Alcohol & Other Addictions (907-456-6251). Long Term Care: Fairbanks Pioneers' Home; Denali Center. Fairbanks is classified as a small city. It is found in EMS Region 1C in the Interior Region. Emergency Services have highway, airport and floatplane access. Emergency service is provided by 911 telephone service, paid EMS service, volunteers, a health aide and the military Auxiliary health care is provided by Fairbanks Fire Dept. (907-450-6500); Airport Fire Dept. (907-474-2500); University Fire Dept. 907-(474-7721); Chena Goldstream Fire & Rescue (907-479-5672); Steese Area Vol. Fire (907-457-1508/907-474-7721); Warbelow's Air Ambulance (907-474-4683); Ft. Wainwright Fire/Emergency (907-384-0774).
Economy and Transportation
As the regional service and supply center for Interior Alaska, Fairbanks offers a diverse economy, including city, borough, state and federal government services, transportation, communication, manufacturing, financial, and regional medical services. Tourism and mining also comprise a significant part of the economy. Including Eielson Air Force Base and Fort Wainwright personnel, over one-third of the employment is in government services. The University of Alaska Fairbanks is also a major employer. Approximately 325,000 tourists visit Fairbanks each summer. The Fort Knox hardrock gold mine produces 1,200 ounces daily with 360 permanent year-round employees. 126 City residents hold commercial fishing permits.
Fairbanks is at the confluence of the Richardson Hwy., George Parks Hwy., Steese Hwy., and Elliott Hwy., connecting the Interior to Anchorage, Canada and the lower 48 states. The Dalton Highway to Prudhoe Bay begins about 75 miles north of town. Goods are transported to Fairbanks by truck, air, and the Alaska Railroad. Regularly-scheduled jet flights are available at the State-owned Fairbanks International Airport. An 11,800' asphalt runway, heliport and seaplane landing strip are available. A public seaplane base is also located on the Chena River. In addition, there are several privately-owned airstrips and heliports in the vicinity.