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!

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.