The Fire Mitigation Committee sponsored a successful Firewise Day workshop on July 15, 2015, preceding the Summer Interlocal meeting. About sixty people attended. Committee co-chair Allen Chrisman put together an excellent program, with presenters from all of the agencies with wildfire responsibilities on the North Fork. As ever, the committee is grateful for their long-term collaboration.
Lincoln Chute was among the presenters at the workshop. He is Flathead County Fire Service Area Manager and now a member of the Fire Mitigation Committee. He reminded attendees that wildfire preparedness is a matter of personal responsibility. There’s only so much that firefighters can do. Furthermore, landowners can’t count on having fire engines available to save their homes, since a shortage of volunteers has made it difficult to staff engines. He urged landowners to put their addresses on posts or mailboxes marking their driveways, using reflective numbers that can be easily seen in an emergency.
Mr. Chute and other presenters also discussed the danger of ember showers, which can ignite structures or the fuels around them a long way from a fire front. Decks and vents are especially problematic in an ember shower. Presenters encouraged landowners to inspect in and around their homes, to identify places where an ember might enter or ignite flammable materials, and to take steps to mitigate any hazards. Don’t store firewood on decks and do cover the openings to woodsheds, preferably with canvas or fire-resistant material. Cut the grass around structures and keep it green. Clean up the brush around propane tanks.
Manny Mendoza of the USDA Forest Service highlighted dangerously dry conditions so far this year. The area experienced the hottest, driest June in history. Although some rain and cooler temperatures in early July moderated the danger, Mr. Mendoza remarked that we’re still on the same track we were on in 2001 and 2003, when we had massive fires on the North Fork.
Progress has been made on the Trail Creek ingress-egress project. Duke and Naomi Hoiland have done significant work along their stretch of Trail Creek Road. Other landowners with frontage on the road are initiating fuels reduction projects, with assistance from the North Fork’s fourth cost-share grant.