Greetings everyone. Here is our first Outlook that can give us a reasonable hint of what the fire season might look like. The good news is that the forecast looks like a “normal” fire season for Northwest Montana – which of course includes the North Fork.
The bad news, of course, is that the rest of Montana, especially east of the Divide, is looking at potentially being significantly above normal wildland fire potential.
The caution for us is that even with the cool spring, and increased snowpack over the past month or two, those factors are transitory. That is, if we wind up turning off hot and dry in early July, the positive effects that the cool, wet spring we had will dissipate quickly. We had that a few years ago, and meteorologists called it a “Flash Drought.” It was not forecasted that summer and caught the meteorologists by surprise. They apologized the next spring for having told us we would have a “Slow Normal” fire season…
So, we need to prepare for a reasonably active fire season, as normal. One factor of course, is that resources will be spread thin with potentially a lot of activity elsewhere in the Northern Rockies, and around the Country.
While these Outlooks are useful, there are limits to their accuracy. The July Outlook will give us a better look at the conditions going into July, and the weather systems that might affect the rest of our fire season.
Thanks to all! Remember our Fuels Field Trip on June 15, and our Firewise Day on July 13.
A note from Rob Davies, Hungry Horse-Glacier View District Ranger:
We will be initiating a contract next week in response to the large slash piles left from the Hay Creek Fire fuel breaks.
Plowing of the Red Meadow road will be allowed up to the Spruce Creek Road (about 2 miles) where that very large slash pile exists. The contractor will be grinding slash, loading into trucks and hauling back to town.
There are other slash plies up the Moose Creek Road that will also be ground up and hauled off.
The Moose Creek Road is already plowed, which shouldn’t create any issues, but the Red Meadow Road activity will create a situation where snowmobilers need to drive with their trailers up to the Spruce Creek road junction instead of parking at the bottom where the North Fork Road Connects to Red Meadow. A turn-around and small parking area will be plowed out at the junction of Red Meadow and Spruce Creek Roads.
Hauling is not expected to be very frequent — maybe two loads a day. Activity may occur all winter until the county sets load limits in the spring. We don’t know if the contractor will start at Moose Creek or Red Meadow Road but as I get more details I will share them with you.
Feel free to call myself (406-387-3801) or Timber Management Assistant Paul Donnellon (406 387-3807 or 406 260-7264), at the ranger station in Hungry Horse.
A note from Molly Shepherd of the NFLA’s Fire Mitigation Committee . . .
Our Firewise USA membership has been renewed, thanks to the efforts of North Fork landowners and our agency partners.
We had a phenomenal year: $132, 544 total “investment,” reflecting both hours and expenses contributed by the North Fork community. Our required minimum Investment was $12,240. The value of our investment per dwelling unit was $294.54; we were required to have a minimum of $27.20, or $1 per dwelling unit.
The Hay Creek fire, and encouraging people to submit their Firewise-qualifying hours and expenses, accounted for our higher numbers this year. I suspect that many hours weren’t reported, however.
Thank you all for your contributions and your support of the North Fork’s Firewise program. And have a happy Thanksgiving!
In order to maintain membership in Firewise USA, North Fork landowners must make an annual investment in wildfire risk reduction efforts. We’re required to calculate the number of hours spent in Firewise-qualifying activities, and the expenses associated with those activities.
A summary of some of Firewise-qualifying activities and expenses follows:
Collaboration and consultation time with forestry and fire experts
Organizing, planning, coordinating, implementing wildfire-related outreach events and educational presentations
Program administration time
Travel time to risk reduction meetings, trainings, and workshops
Attendance at wildfire-related education/informational meetings and events and at evacuation/preparedness trainings
Firewise improvements and maintenance on homes and outbuildings
Improvements and maintenance within the home ignition zone — for example, thinning or limbing up trees, reducing ladder fuels, dealing with slash and other debris, moving firewood piles
Vegetation removal; community clean-up
Committee members attendance and participation at Firewise committee meetings
Residents’ attendance and participation at wildfire education/outreach events
Writing wildfire educational articles
Qualifying expenses include equipment and tool purchases; mileage at the current IRS rate for attendance at wildfire-related meetings and trainings; purchases of food for meetings/trainings; contractor and labor expenses to perform risk reduction work; and the value of volunteer labor participating in risk reduction projects.
The Fire Mitigation Committee asks North Fork landowners to add up the number of hours they have spent in qualifying activities as well as the expenses they have incurred from November 1, 2020, to October 31, 2021. Please email your total hours and expenses to Molly Shepherd, email@example.com. Your hours and expenses will be included in applying for renewal of the North Fork’s membership in Firewise USA.
Flathead National Forest just put out a press release listing the prescribed burns planned for this fall. The only entry concerning the North Fork is…
Red Whale Fuels Reduction – Approximately 750 acres will be targeted for prescribed burning this fall in Moose creek and Moran creek. This project location is in the North Fork of the Flathead about four miles northwest of Polebridge. Depending on weather this burn is planned for mid to late September to early October. The purpose of this project is to help restore a more historical fire regime to the ecosystem, improve wildlife habitat and reduce hazardous fuels to reduce wildfire risk and aid in potential future fire suppression efforts, and improve wildlife habitat.
According to Andy Huntsberger, our District Fire Management Officer, “…it is very unlikely that we will be doing any burning besides piles on Glacier View District this fall. The window for activity fuels and ecosystem burning will probably close after next week and our priorities will be in the Southfork. I’m not saying it won’t happen but I am saying it is very unlikely. “
Here is the Wildland Fire Potential Outlook for September, October, November. As you all are aware, we turned a corner in mid-August in the North Fork with the moisture we received. A big change that significantly slowed the fire season for us. And the good news is that we are forecast to continue to be a “normal” fire season through September, October and November. Plus, with a La Nina forecast for Montana this winter, you all need to be tuning up your snowblowers and getting your firewood laid in.
While that is good news for Northwest Montana, Oregon and Washington will continue to be busy through September, Northern California gets no relief until December. Grim.
According to District Fire Management Officer Andy Huntsberger, there’s nothing going on with the Hay Creek Fire — not even any smoke. If you saw a helicopter buzzing around yesterday, it was picking up a radio communications repeater from Numa Peak that was used during firefighting efforts.
The evacuation warning for the Hay Creek Fire was lifted by the Flathead Country Sheriff on August 18, 2021. The current Type 3 incident management team will transition to a local Type 4 incident command from the Flathead National Forest on Saturday, August 21 at 0700. Hungry Horse-Glacier View Fire Management will maintain resources on the Hay Creek Fire for the foreseeable future. Crews will continue to cleanup and rehab the fire area.
The last public meeting was held on August 19. There are no more public meetings currently planned.