Fire Mitigation Report, Sept. 2011

The DNRC recently notified the Fire Mitigation Committee that its grant proposal had been approved and that funding authority had been secured.  The amount of the grant is approximately $99,600.  As with previous grants, monies will be disbursed on a cost-share basis, with the grant providing 75% of the cost of treatment and the landowner providing 25%.  Landowner contributions may be “in-kind.”  The total value of the grant, including landowners’ share, is approximately $133,000.

The DNRC will send the committee a proposed agreement for consideration; the grant is not final until a signed agreement is in hand.  Tentatively, Angela Mallon of the DNRC will attend the June 2012 NFLA meeting to explain the program.  Also tentatively, the Flathead Economic Policy Center will administer the grant.

The committee has been in touch with the Executive Director of FireSafe Montana.  The North Fork is a member of FireSafe; the organization waived payment of dues for the current year.  FireSafe is willing and able to assist the Fire Mitigation Committee with its annual FireWise Day if asked to do so.  The brochures that FireSafe provided earlier in the year are still available in Sondreson Hall.

Grant possibility

The North Fork applied for a Western States fuels mitigation grant in 2010, part of a consortium of communities.  The application was rejected and the Fire Mitigation Committee decided to look into the possibility of a applying for a stand-alone grant for the North Fork.

This spring, committee members have discussed grant possibilities informally with the DNRC.  The agency determines grant funding in Montana.  Basically, any new grant would continue our successful cost-share fuels mitigation program.   Committee members are cautiously optimistic about our chances, if any monies become available.

Firesafe Montana

Firesafe Montana is a non-profit organization that helps to educate Montana communities about wildfire.   Its executive director attended the Fire Mitigation Committee meeting in April, 2011 to explain the program.  He offered to waive the membership fee for one year to enable North Fork landowners to become familiar with Firesafe and what it can do for us.  The NFLA Board of Directors accepted the offer.

Federal and State Projects

Larry Roberts of LTL Forestry purchased the Forest Service’s “Red Dwarf” project last February.  The project will reduce fuels and improve ingress and egress along East Red Meadow Drive.  The contractor will begin work in July and must complete it by August.

The Red Whale project has been split into several parts.   The Forest Service will do some precommercial thinning under contracts and some with its own forces.  The commercial portions of the project will be sold through two stewardship contracts.  The first contract will be awarded this spring; work will begin in July.  The second contract will be awarded the end of June.

Harvesting on the DNRC’s North Fork X 2 timber sale project was completed last winter.  Anticipated actions this summer and fall include final blading, reclamation  and grass seeding of roads; slashing some of the saplings and logging damage in the harvest units; and piling and burning of slash.

The DNRC is completing its environmental assessment of a project on the Coal Creek State Forest.  It’s possible but unlikely that there will be some logging activity this fall.  Road reconstruction work on the Coal Creek Road slump is scheduled to take place in early September, 2011.

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.

New hall porch a community effort

Community service moved front and center this summer, as a host of volunteers led by Frank Vitale demolished Sondreson Hall’s decaying front porch and replaced it with a new model. The new porch features a full roof over the deck and composite stairs that will last for years, yet retains the original rustic look of the hall.

The project took some six long work days. North Forkers who donated their time, tools, money and materials are too numerous to mention. Special thanks, however, go to: Vitale, who designed the porch, and organized and supervised the project; North Fork builder Rob Fisher, whose expertise contributed to the excellence of the finished product; Lee Secrest, who donated and milled most of the awesome lumber; Tom Edwards, who donated $1,000 for the porch, and arranged for Western Building Center to provide materials at cost and with free delivery; Eric Martin of Western Building Center in Columbia Falls, who tweaked the materials list and saw that materials were delivered on time; Rob Alm, who donated and delivered a load of gravel for the base; Gerry Stearns, Bonny Ogle and Karen McDonough, who coordinated food donations and purchases, and prepared lunches for the workers.

Thanks to all for a job well done!