Fire Mitigation Committee Report, Fall 2014

Firewise Day2014 Firewise Day

The North Fork Landowners’ Association’s Fire Mitigation Committee held its annual Firewise Day workshop on July 16, 2014. The theme of the workshop was “Wildfires Happen: Take Action! Plan. Prepare. Prevent.”

The program began with a powerful DVD about recent major fires in Colorado, with a segment on the Yarnell Hill Fire in Arizona in 2013. Several outstanding presentations followed. Angela Mallon, Stewardship Specialist with the Montana DNRC’s Forestry Division, used model simulations to demonstrate the effectiveness of various fuel treatments. North Fork landowner Larry Kinsolving described the restoration work that he and his wife Ruth are doing on their property in the aftermath of the Wedge Canyon Fire in 2003. The title of his presentation was “Closing the Ring: Fire, Restoration and Beyond.”

The forty attendees heard updates about North Fork activities from representatives of the U. S. Forest Service and the DNRC. They also learned about the status of the North Fork’s current hazardous fuels mitigation grants. Finally, they were given an overview of the Firesafe Montana program by Jennifer LaManna, Firesafe’s Executive Director.

Work completed on the Sondreson Hall Fuels Mitigation ProjectSondreson Community Hall Hazardous Fuels Project

The North Fork Landowners’ Association applied for and received a hazardous fuels reduction grant for work around Sondreson Community Hall. North director Allen Chrisman, who also serves as co-chair of the Fire Mitigation Committee, lined out the project. The objective was to remove surface and ladder fuels and to provide space between the crowns of the remaining trees.

Nineteen volunteers contributed a total of 81 hours and the use of equipment to the Hall project. They sought to minimize soil disturbance and visual impacts, leaving strong, healthy trees in place.   The project was completed in late May 2014 and has been well-received by the community.

Hazardous Fuels Grants

The DNRC awarded the North Fork its fourth hazardous fuels grant in the Fall of 2013, this one in the amount of $91,000. As with our three previous grants, monies are available on a cost-share basis, with the grant paying 75% of the cost and the landowner contributing the remaining 25%.

A priority of the new grant is to reduce fuel accumulations along the lower segment of Trail Creek Road, where it passes through private property. Treating the fuels will provide significant benefits, among them improving ingress and egress for landowners, allowing safer access for firefighters, and affording an escape route over the Whitefish Divide in the event of a large fire or other catastrophic event in the lower North Fork Valley.

The Fire Mitigation Committee is working collaboratively with private landowners, the Forest Service and Flathead County on the Trail Creek Road project.

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