Fire Mitigation Committee Update – June 2017

Firewise Day 2016The Fire Mitigation Committee met in May to plan its activities for the year, including its annual Firewise Day workshop.  The workshop will be held in Sondreson Hall on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 from 9:30 a.m. to noon, preceding the Summer Interlocal.

Our principal speaker this year will be Byron Bonney, who has been instrumental in working with landowners on hazardous fuels treatments in the Bitterroot Valley.  He’ll tell us about the effects of those treatments in the area burned by the Roaring Lion Fire last summer.   The fire was aptly named:  it came roaring out of a canyon and then fanned out into the valley, behavior that is also typical of many North Fork fires.  Although the Roaring Lion Fire destroyed a number of homes, most of the homes whose owners had created defensible space around them were spared.  The treatments brought fire to the ground and limited the fuels that could be ignited by flying embers.  They also improved the chance of survival for neighbors’ homes downwind.  So as we’ll hear at the workshop, the fire provided important corroboration of the value of defensible space.

We’ll also hear from Lincoln Chute, Director of Emergency Services for Flathead County and a member of our committee.  He’ll talk about the county’s pending revision of its Community Wildfire Protection Plan or CWPP.  The committee expects to update the North Fork’s fire plan in conjunction with the county’s revision.  Lots of work has been done since our last update in 2009, as maps will demonstrate.  Community input is required in the CWPP process so landowners can expect to hear more about the project this summer.

With respect to the status of our cost-share assistance grants, we basically have $10,000 left in our current grant.  We may apply for another, smaller grant.  But we also have potential access to funds from grants that cover larger areas of the county.  There’s now a fair amount of flexibility in where the monies can be spent.  Landowners who are interested in creating defensible space around their North Fork homes should contact Bill Swope at 406.250.9812 or  Mason Richwine, who has worked with many North Fork landowners over the last 10+years, has retired.

Finally, the June 1 Wildland Fire Potential is posted on the NFLA website.  The Northern Rockies’ outlook is for a slower than normal fire season in June and July, moving to normal in August and September.  But we can’t be complacent:  hot, dry, windy days cure out fine fuels, making them more combustible.  Landowners should be cautious about any burning, and do so only with a permit.   Now is also a good time to clean up accumulated flammable debris around our homes, so it doesn’t provide a fuel bed for embers.

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Molly Shepherd

Molly Shepherd is the Co-Chairperson of the Fire Mitigation Committee and a past President of the NFLA.