Fire Mitigation Update, Spring 2011

The Fire Mitigation Committee met in early April to plan activities for the 2011 fire season.  Although details aren’t yet available, the committee expects to sponsor a workshop and field trip on forest insects and disease in late June.  The workshop, which would serve as the North Fork’s annual Firewise Day, also would consider the relationship between wildfire susceptibility and dead and dying trees.  In addition, the committee hopes to offer practical training and assessment for landowners who want to address wildfire risks around their home.  The training may be offered in conjunction with Firesafe Montana. 
     If the opportunity arises, the committee will apply for another cost-share grant to assist landowners with fuels reduction on their properties.  Funds from our two previous grants have been exhausted.

Sales of the Forest Service’s long-awaited Red Whale Project are underway

Hungry Horse/Glacier View Ranger Jimmy DeHerrera reports that the Red Dwarf portion of the project was awarded last fall.  Larry Roberts of LTL Forestry purchased the small sale, which abuts Red Meadow Drive.  Reducing fuels on Forest Service property in the area has long been a priority for neighboring landowners and for the Fire Mitigation Committee.  LTL elected not to start work until July, 2011.  Work must be completed by the end of September, 2011.

The principal portion of the Red Whale Project covers about 1040 acres and features both mechanical thinning and prescribed burning.  The Forest Service accomplished some of the precommercial thinning last year with its own work forces.  According to DeHerrera, the agency will do more precommercial thinning in the summer of 2011, both under contracts and with its forces.

The commercial timber portions of Red Whale will be sold through two stewardship contracts.  DeHerrera anticipates that the first contract will be awarded around the end of April.  The purchaser will begin work in July.  The second contract will be awarded around the end of June.

Grant Not Awarded

The Northwest Regional Resource Conservation & Development Council (RC&D) recently filed a joint application for a Western States fuels mitigation grant on behalf of the North Fork and several other Northwest Montana communities. It was necessary to combine with other communities because the minimum grant amount was larger than any of the communities could use individually. The North Fork’s share of the grant would have been $100,000. We learned in September 2010 that the grant application had not been approved.

Another fuels mitigation grant opportunity may arise under the Stevens Act in the spring of 2011. Stevens Act grants may be for lesser amounts than Western State grants. If given the chance, the Fire Mitigation Committee will consider applying for a $100,000 stand-alone grant on behalf of the North Fork. Funds made available to North Fork landowners by two previous fuels mitigation grants have been exhausted.

Fire Workshop

The NFLA’s Fire Mitigation Committee sponsored a workshop and open house on July 7, 2010, immediately preceding the Summer Inter Local meeting. Attendees were treated to diverse presentations and demonstrations.

Michael Dardis, Fire Management Officer for the Forest Service’s Glacier View District, revisited the subject of allowing certain wildland fires to burn naturally. Risk management and safety are the principal parameters in determining whether to allow a wildfire to burn. The Forest Service will continue to do aggressive initial attack when structures are at risk. Dardis also introduced a recently-produced Forest Service video on the vast, destructive fires of 1910. He remarked that the fires had been a defining moment in the history of the Forest Service, particularly with regard to fire management.

Ed Burlingame, Fire Rescue Trainer for MSU’s Fire Services Training School, also spoke at the workshop. He presented nuts-and-bolts information about preventative measures and saving your home in the event of fire. Duke Hoiland and Elmer Benson demonstrated the use of water tanks mounted on trailers. Both men are members of the Trail Creek Irregulars.

Finally, Travis Paveglio outlined the FIRECLIM project and the North Fork’s role in it. FIRECLIM is a research and education project funded by the National Science Foundation. The project seeks to assess and manage risk in the Wildland-Urban Interface in light of future climate and land use changes. Fire Mitigation Committee members have been asked to participate in the project.

Firewise Community Status

Firewise signThe North Fork’s Firewise Community status was renewed for 2010, in recognition of activities in 2009. The July 7, 2010 workshop and open house served as the community’s annual Firewise Day, thereby satisfying one of the criteria for maintaining our Firewise Community status. Among other benefits, the Federal Emergency Management Administration gives a Firewise community priority in consideration for pre-disaster mitigation planning and project grants.

The NFLA also may join Firesafe Montana, a statewide organization that serves as a clearinghouse for technical information and educational materials. Its purpose is to reduce loss of life and property from wildfire.

Flathead Community Wildfire Protection Plan

The NFLA’s Fire Mitigation Committee completed a substantial revision of its North Fork Wildfire Mitigation and Planning Report. The original report was prepared in 2004, in conjunction with Flathead County’s preparation of a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). The North Fork report was appended to the county plan, the only geographic area in the county thus represented.

Flathead County began preparation of a revised CWPP in 2009. The Fire Mitigation Committee recognized that many changes had taken place on the North Fork since 2004 so undertook to revise and update its Wildfire Mitigation and Planning Report. The revised report will be appended to the new Flathead CWPP, which is not yet complete. The text of the report but not the accompanying photo and maps may be accessed here.

Protecting your place from wildfire

Even if you’re a seasonal North Fork resident, it pays for you to take some time out of your vacation to protect your property from wildfires.

North Fork Fire Chief Lynn P. Ogle (e-mail) has the following tips:

  • The best way to dispose of slash and debris that is a fire hazard is by safe burning. From May 1 through June 30, before the woods dry out, a burn permit is required. To obtain a permit, call the Interagency Burning Permit Center at (406) 752-7376 or (800) 545-7376. You may also apply for a permit on line. You will need a legal description of your property, which can be ascertained using an official Flathead National Forest map. The center’s Web site also lists open and closed burning periods for the year, and fire-safety tips.
  • Always use care when burning. You may not burn garbage, man-made wood products, plastic, wire or anything like furniture, etc.
  • Even with a burn permit, you must call the Air Quality Hotline at (406) 751-8144 to determine whether burning is allowed that day.
  • Avoid smoky fires that will violate your neighbors’ privacy and enjoyment of the North Fork.
  • If you have a fire ring, make sure it’s clean and safe. Be sure the pit is away from overhanging limbs and other flammables, and keep water and firefighting tools close at hand.
  • If your fire gets out of control, send someone for help and call the Flathead County Sheriff’s Office at (406) 758-5610.
  • There are several North Forkers who have firefighting equipment and training. They are Duke Hoiland (Trail Creek Road); Lynn Ogle and Larry Wilson (just south of Trail Creek Road east of the North Fork Road); Jerry Wernick (driveway across from Red Meadow Creek Road); Frank Vitale (Red Meadow Creek Road); John Frederick and Oliver Meister (North Fork Hostel in Polebridge).
  • It is not a crime to ask for help in putting out an out-of-control fire. However, you are responsible for damage done to adjacent property by a fire you started.