Fire Mitigation Committee Report, Late Spring 2016

From Co-Chairs Molly Shepherd and Allen Chrisman

Hazardous Fuels Grant

The North Fork has received four hazardous fuels reduction grants since the fires of 2003. Monies have been available on a cost-share basis, with the grant paying 75% of the cost of an eligible project and the landowner contributing the remaining 25%. The Flathead Economic Policy Center has administered the grants and provided invaluable technical assistance on our behalf. We have closed out our three earlier grants and have a balance of about $20,000 remaining on the fourth. A number of landowners have committed to or are considering projects.

Our priority with the fourth grant has been to reduce hazardous fuels along the lower part of Trail Creek Road, where it passes through private property. The purpose is to improve ingress and egress, allow safer access for firefighters, and afford an escape route over the Whitefish Divide.   We’ve had a positive response from landowners. Flathead County is assisting us by chipping the slash generated by landowner treatments along the road.

The Fire Mitigation Committee tentatively expects to apply for a fifth grant when the opportunity arises. Committee members have discussed giving priority to ingress/egress projects along lower Red Meadow Road, similar to those funded along the lower stretch of Trail Creek Road. Flathead County also may support potential Red Meadow projects by chipping the resulting slash.

Information about participation in the grant program is available from Bill Swope, who may be reached at 406-250-9812 or at bhswope@gmail.com.

Firewise Day 2016

The North Fork has been recognized as a Firewise community for eleven years.  One of the requirements for recognition is to contribute a minimum of $2 per capita toward Firewise activities.  In 2015, we contributed about $8,200, most of it in volunteer time, with a landowner population approaching 500.

Another requirement for continuing recognition is to hold an annual Firewise Day event.  The 2015 workshop featured an excellent program and strong attendance.  This year’s workshop will be held on Wednesday July 13, 2016 from 9:30 a.m. to noon at Sondreson Hall, immediately preceding the Summer Interlocal meeting.

Our Firewise Day agenda includes the following items:

  • A video by Jack Cohen, internationally known wildfire expert at the Fire Lab in Missoula.  The video’s title is “Your Home Can Survive a Wildfire,” with advice about how to create defensible space around your home.
  • A presentation by Angela Mallon and Lucas Wells of the DNRC.  They will report on the preliminary results of their study on optimal spacing of trees in hazardous fuels reduction projects.
  • A presentation by Lincoln Chute, Director of Emergency Services for Flathead County.  Mr. Chute will explain the county’s “Ready, Set, Go” evacuation program.  He may illustrate ingress/egress concerns with video footage from the Fort MacMurray fires.
  • Remarks by Andy Huntsberger, Fire Management Officer for the Forest Service’s Glacier View/Hungry Horse District.  He will review the fire season forecast and resources available on the North Fork this summer.  He’ll also touch on the potential for reburn in areas burned since the Red Bench Fire in 1988.
  • A review of the status of our hazardous fuels grants by Bill Swope and Carol Daly.  They also will address opportunities for landowners.
  • Tentatively, remarks by Christine Johnson, Executive Director of Firesafe Montana.  She will tell us about the Firesafe program.  The North Fork Landowners Association is a Firesafe member.

Here is the final agenda for Firewise Day.

Wildfire Mitigation and Planning Report

The Fire Mitigation Committee prepared a North Fork Wildfire Mitigation and Planning Report in 2005 and updated it in 2009. If you would like to see a copy of this report, please click here. The report is appended to Flathead County’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP).

The county anticipates revising its CWPP within the next year or two. The Fire Mitigation Committee expects to revise the North Fork’s plan in conjunction with the county’s revision. We’ll update our demographic information, grant history and achievements. We’ll also generate new maps of public and private fuels mitigation work. Public participation is required in the CWPP process.

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