Lots of moisture as July approaches has wildfire experts cautiously optimistic . . .
Wildfire experts will rarely, if ever, venture a guess as to what the upcoming fire season holds until they’re in the middle of it.
But with Northwest Montana entering the first day of summer with a healthy reservoir of high-elevation snowpack and above-average spring rains, there’s cautious optimism that the fire season will at least be slow to start.
“Nothing’s super dry, and spring rains were good,” said Jim Flint, Fire Management Officer for the Flathead National Forest’s Spotted Bear Ranger District. “But if it doesn’t rain in the rest of June, July and August, we’ll have a fire season.”
Wildfire plays an important and integral role in our forested ecosystems. Local fire history records show that our forests have evolved with fire for thousands of years. We have successfully suppressed 98% of wildfires in the greater Flathead Area since approximately 1930, and the resulting accumulation of fuel creates an environment conducive to large fire growth. It’s important for our community to understand wildfire and promote a proactive approach to mitigating impacts to our communities; private property, airshed, watersheds and forest ecosystems.
On April 25th, the community is invited to a public event and conversation at the Flathead Valley Community College, Arts and Technology Building Room 139 at 6:00 p.m., for an “Era of Megafires” presentation. This 70-minute multi-media traveling presentation by Dr. Paul Hessburg, will help our community understand the issues surrounding Megafires, so collectively we can move toward solutions that can change the way we receive wildfire and related smoke. Dr. Hessburg has conducted fire and landscape ecology research for more than 27 years.
The “Era of Megafires” presentation will be followed by a question and answer session around topics that are relevant to the community in order to identify local challenges and local actions. Typically, different communities face different obstacles when it comes to wildfire preparedness and resilience.
The intent of this presentation is to significantly reduce the amount of loss we are experiencing by developing a collective understanding of fire, approaches to wildfire management, and how landowners can engage.
The “Era of Megafires” is brought to you by Flathead Area FireSafe Council, Northern Rockies Fire Science Network; Southwestern Crown Collaborative, Montana DNRC/Kalispell Unit; Flathead National Forest, Flathead Valley Community College and FireSafe Montana. For more information, contact Mike West, Flathead National Forest at 758-3539, or Ali Ulwelling, MT DNRC at 751-2270.
Locally, the Coal Ridge Fire, a small, 0.2 acre blaze on the south face of Coal Ridge about 6 miles southwest of Polebridge, was declared out yesterday afternoon.
The Flathead Beacon has a good summary of other fires in the Flathead Valley . . .
The storm system that passed through the Flathead Valley earlier this week sparked several new wildfires on the Flathead National Forest in the Swan Lake Ranger District, the agency announced.
Smoke has been visible this week throughout the valley due to the Copper King Fire, which has burned 27,788 acres near Thompson Falls. More than 838 personnel are battling the blaze.
The Cold Lake fire is on the ridge just south of Lower Cold Lake and is approximately 10 acres in size, in sub-alpine fir, and has several small spot fires. There are seven smoke jumpers and a 21-person initial attack crew assigned to the fire. A Type 1 helicopter and a Type 3 helicopter were conducting bucket work to help suppression efforts.
Senators Jon Tester and Steve Daines are not happy about the state of Forest Service funding for fighting wildfires and maintaining trails . . .
As the U.S. Forest Service prepares for the looming wildfire season, Montana’s senators are calling for reforms to the agency’s forest and trail management.
U.S. Sens. Jon Tester and Steve Daines questioned Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell last week during a Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee hearing focused on the agency’s $4.8 billion budget request for the next fiscal year.
Tester and Daines criticized Tidwell for failing to prioritize trail maintenance in Montana. The agency has revised its formula for funding trail maintenance across the U.S. with an added emphasis on higher population centers. In Region One, which encompasses all of Montana and has 28,000 miles of federally managed trails, the agency plans to reduce appropriations by 30 percent over the next three years. There is an estimated $25 million in deferred trail maintenance in Region One, according to a Forest Service report.
Here’s a timely news release by Bruce Auchly of Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks discussing the effect — direct and indirect — of fire on animals . . .
Summer’s fires are over, right?
All that smoke-in-the-nose, ashes-in-mouth is past for the year. Or so we hope.
Yet even in the worst of it many of us had choices. Some folks left Montana, others sought relief in air conditioning at home or office or both.
Animals don’t have those luxuries. Yes, birds can fly and bears can burrow into a den, but fires in July and August happen at the wrong time for migration and hibernation.
First, let’s slay a rumor. The rash of bear conflicts, mostly black bears, this summer is not because smoke from forest fires was forcing bears out of their mountain redoubts and into towns. They are just farther afield this year looking for food.
Date: September 8, 2015 Contact: Lisa Osborn , 406-295-7558 Contact: Jeff Stevenson , 406-283-7795
Northern Rockies Coordination Group Kalispell Area Interagency News Release
Libby,MT.—All Fire Restrictions will be rescinded across North West Montana.Jurisdictions include:
Flathead National Forest
Kootenai National Forest
Bob Marshall Wilderness Lands within the Flathead National Forest
Glacier National Park
U.S.Fish & Wildlife Service
MT-DNRC Northwestern Land Office
Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks Region 1
Counties:Flathead, Lake (outside of Confederated Salish & Kootenai Tribe), Lincoln, and Sanders
On most of the jurisdiction listed above all fire restrictions have been rescinded effective immediately. The Flathead County Commissioners will meet on Thursday to decide whether to rescind restrictions in Flathead County. [they did – editor]
Please remember that even though fire restrictions have been rescinded fire season is still active. There are many fires burning in the area so you may still see smoke and flames within fire areas. There are many fire area closures please call your local Forest Service, DNRC or county fire department office for more information. Remember that you must stay out of closure areas until the closure is lifted by the land management agency.
At this time no open burning is allowed.
As hunting season begins, land managers want to remind hunters to practice wildfire safety while enjoying the outdoors. The Kalispell area fire restrictions group isurging caution for those participating in hunting and other outdoor activities to avoid sparking a fire. Just one small spark/ember from an unattended warming fire, muzzle of a gun or a hot exhaust pipe on a vehicle can ignite the dry grass.Please refrain from building campfires/warming fires during windy or dry conditio.
With that in mind, here are a few suggestions to avoid sparking a wildfire:
Keep water nearby when welding on stands.
When shooting close to the ground, be sure there is no dry grass or tinder in front of your muzzle. Though rare, it’s not impossible for a shot to ignite a fire.
Use properly maintained spark arresters on all power equipment.
Never leave a campfire or warming fire unattended, even for a few minutes. Be sure to completely extinguish campfires/warming fires when ready to go.
Keep a bucket, a shovel and a fire extinguisher in your vehicle and at your camp.
Be aware of area fire restrictions.
Be mindful of where you drive or park and stay on designated trails. Avoid parking on dry brush or grass, since your exhaust system can ignite the vegetation.
Please keep wildfire safety in mind and have a safe and memorable hunting experience.
In case it you missed it in this morning’s Kootenai fire complex report, the North Fork area closure in the Flathead Forest and the Grave Creek/10 Lakes area closure in the Kootenai Forest have been rescinded. The Forest Service is no longer worried about the Marston Fire making a run toward the North Fork. Also, Trail Creek Road is open again all the way through. Looks like the cool, damp weather is really helping.
Rain and cooler weather has let fire crews make some progress against many area wildfires . . .
Substantial rainfall — at least by parched Northwest Montana standards — has dampened area wildfire activity.
The changing weather and slowing fire activity have allowed evacuation orders to be lifted in the Essex, Noxon and Libby areas.
On the 6,810-acre Northeast Kootenai Complex, which is almost entirely composed of the 6,700-acre Marston Fire east of Fortine, opportunistic firefighters were leaping at the chance to corral the blaze.