The Fire Mitigation Committee held its annual Firewise Day workshop on July 10, 2013, before the Inter Local meeting. The focus of the workshop was the Wedge Canyon Fire, ten years later. Over fifty people attended. The response was enthusiastic, particularly to presentations by Allen Chrisman and Wally Bennett.
Allen spoke about climate change and its effects on fire behavior and frequency in the Northern Rockies. Basically, we’re likely to experience more fires and more intense fires as temperatures rise.
Wally Bennett took over as Type 1 Incident Commander the day after the Wedge Canyon Fire made its big run on July 24, 2003. He recently visited the North Fork to see the public and private fuels reduction work that’s been accomplished since the fire. He remarked at the workshop that the work has made a big difference and that he’s proud of what we’ve done. He also spoke about ingress and egress and how important it is to firefighters to turn their equipment around.
In addition, Michael Dardis discussed the major fuels projects undertaken by the U.S. Forest Service on the North Fork since the Wedge Fire. Brian Manning did the same on behalf of the DNRC. Federal and State efforts complement those of private landowners.
Otherwise, it appears that the North Fork will be awarded another fuels reduction grant, this one in the amount of $91,000. We don’t have a formal agreement yet but if it happens, monies will still be available on a 75-25 basis, with the grant paying 75% and the landowner paying 25% of the cost of a project. That’s increasingly rare; many grants now require 50-50 contributions. There will be a focus on Trail Creek Road as an exit route in the event other routes aren’t available.
Finally, speaking of the ten years that have passed since the Wedge Canyon Fire, it’s also been ten years since the Fire Mitigation Committee was appointed. Ed Heger, Lynn Ogle, Molly Shepherd, Jerry Wernick and Larry Wilson have served from the beginning. Allen Chrisman joined the committee a few years ago, after her retired as Fire Management Officer for the Flathead Forest.
Molly Shepherd, Chair
North Fork Landowners’ Association’s
Fire Mitigation Committee