Tag Archives: fire mitigation

North Fork wildfire mitigation meeting July 10

There’s a big informational presentation on fire mitigation coming up July 10, sponsored by the North Fork Landowners Association.

Larry Wilson turned over his monthly column to Molly Shepherd to announce the meeting and provide background . . .

On July 10, the North Fork Landowners Association will host the biggest educational/informative meeting of the year. From 9:30 a.m. to noon, there will be an educational program on wildfire.

When I asked Molly Shepherd, chairperson of the Fire Mitigation Committee, for information, she wrote an excellent report and it follows as she wrote it. Thanks Molly.

Ten years ago, on July 18, 2003, a lightning strike in the Whitefish Range ignited the Wedge Canyon Fire. Before the fire finally died out in the fall, it had destroyed seven homes and 29 outbuildings between Whale Creek and Trail Creek. A total of 54,400 acres burned. The costs of fighting the fire and protecting structures exceeded $50 million.

The Wedge Canyon Fire was only one of many large wildfires that have burned across the North Fork Valley. Indeed, fire has been second only to glaciation in shaping the valley’s landscape. But because of its cost, destructiveness and duration, Wedge Canyon served as a catalyst for change. The North Fork Landowners Association appointed a diverse committee to explore what might be done to mitigate the effects of future wildfires.

Members of the Fire Mitigation Committee reached several understandings based on the North Fork’s fire history and the probability of future fires. One was that it’s safer, cheaper and more effective to abate hazards before a fire starts. Another was that although landowners have neither the ability nor the desire to eliminate fire from the valley, we can and should ameliorate the risks that it poses to our homes and the costs associated with defending them.

Since the time of the Wedge Canyon Fire, the committee has obtained three grants from the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation to help North Fork landowners reduce hazardous fuels on their properties. Response to the voluntary cost-sharing program has been remarkable.

The first two grants resulted in more than 100 home wildfire inspections with treatment prescriptions. Fuels reduction work was completed under about 100 separate cost agreements. At least 500 acres of private property were treated with grant money. Probably even more acres were treated without any financial assistance. Projects funded by the third grant are underway, several of which seek to protect multiple homes and to afford safe ingress and egress for landowners and firefighters.

Private fuel treatments are just part of the story, however. Only about 14,500 acres — less than three per cent of the total acreage in the North Fork Valley — are in private hands. Given this reality, the Fire Mitigation Committee decided that landowners needed to collaborate with federal and state agencies to reduce risk.

The agencies were receptive. Our shared premise has been that public and private efforts should complement one another, with homes being the focal point. Both the Forest Service and the DNRC have planned and implemented major fuels reduction projects in consultation with the committee and other landowners. It’s been a model of public and private partnership, leveraging the effectiveness of one another’s efforts.

This month, the Fire Mitigation Committee will sponsor a workshop marking the 10th anniversary of the Wedge Canyon Fire. We’ll look back to conditions at the time of the fire, assess what’s changed in the intervening 10 years, and consider the potential effects of the changes on future fires. The event will serve as our annual Firewise Day.

Presenters will include Wally Bennett, who was one of the Type 1 incident commanders during the Wedge Fire. He’ll share his perspectives on the fire and on how subsequent fuels reduction projects might affect future fire behavior and suppression efforts.

In addition, committee member Allen Chrisman will examine North Fork fire history and climate change; Michael Dardis will discuss fuels projects undertaken by the Forest Service since the time of the Wedge Canyon Fire; Brian Manning will do the same on behalf of the DNRC; and Angela Mallon and Bill Swope will review what’s been accomplished with the help of grants and touch upon some ongoing concerns, among them ingress and egress.

The North Fork Firewise Day workshop will be held on Wednesday, July 10, from 9:30 a.m. to noon in Sondreson Community Hall. The Firewise morning will be followed in the afternoon by the semi-annual Interlocal Meeting, where county, state and federal agencies will report on their North Fork activities. We hope to see you then.


Western senators protest wildfire prevention cuts

A group of senators representing states in the Western U.S. are not happy with cuts to wildfire prevention funds . . .

A bipartisan group of Western U.S. senators on Friday urged the Obama administration to focus more on preventing wildfires rather than taking money from programs that clear potentially hazardous dead trees and brush to fund efforts to fight the increasingly destructive blazes.

The administration is proposing a 31 percent cut in funding for the government’s central fire prevention program one year after record blazes burned 9.3 million acres. The federal government routinely spends so much money fighting wildfires that it uses money meant to be spent on clearing potential fuels like dead trees and underbrush in national forests.

Continue reading . . .

Wildfire fighting costs up; fire prevention funds down

Thew New York Times has a lengthy article on the Forest Service’s increasingly tight budget for fire mitigation work . . .

…As another destructive wildfire season chars the West, the federal government is sharply reducing financing for programs aimed at preventing catastrophic fires. Federal money to thin out trees and clear away millions of acres of deadfall and brittle brush has dropped by more than 25 percent in the budgets for the past two years, a casualty of spending cuts and the rising cost of battling active wildfires.

Continue reading . . .

Larry Wilson: Talking North Fork roads, fires

This week Larry discusses the condition of the North Fork Road — always a hot topic this time of year — and summarizes the conditions for fire mitigation grants . . .

Every year in March and April, I am asked repeatedly, “How is the North Fork Road?” Questions come from Flathead Valley residents wanting to drive as far north as Big Creek to look for bull elk in Glacier National Park, or maybe wanting to drive to Polebridge to view elk on Home Ranch Bottoms, or maybe to the Merc to buy a turnover or some other sweet thing. (The Polebridge Mercantile will reopen this year on May 1.)

Also, there are many e-mails and a few phone calls from summer presidents in Florida, California and other undesirable places who are anxious to get back to the North Fork.

My answer always starts out the same way…

Continue reading . . .

Montana DNRC, North Fork landowners to reduce fire hazard

There’s a nice bit of money in the pot for fuels reduction work this year . . .

A deal between the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation and the North Fork Landowners Association will keep the North Fork buzzing with chainsaws this spring in an effort to reduce flammable fuels throughout the area.

According to forester Bill Swope, nearly two-thirds of the area along the North Fork Road, between Camas Creek and the Canadian border, have been scorched by wildfire since 1988. Now much of that is regrowing and he said efforts must be made to thin underbrush, which will be the focus of a $100,000 grant from DNRC.

Continue reading . . .