Fire Mitigation Committee

Moose Fire behind Big Creek

The Fire Mitigation Committee has been working effectively since 2003 to inform landowners about steps they can take to protect their property and persons from wildfire. The committee is chaired by Molly Shepherd and Allen Chrisman.

2018 Late Winter Update

Mark Your Calendars! The Fire Mitigation Committee is planning for the North Fork’s 2018 Firewise Day, which will be held the morning of July 18 preceding the Summer Interlocal. The North Fork has been recognized as a Firewise Community since 2006. Come join our Celebration! Byron Bonney will be our featured speaker again. This year he will tell us about the effects of fuels treatments in the area burned by the 2017 Lolo Peak Fire south of Missoula, as well as some effects from the Sunrise Fire near Superior. Byron’s presentation last year focused on the Roaring Lion Fire, and the effects of fuel treatments on fire behavior. The treatments brought fire to the ground and limited the fuels that could be ignited by flying embers. They also improved the chance of survival for neighbors’ homes downwind. We are looking forward to Byron’s report on what he observed at the Lolo Peak and Sunrise Fires, and a look back at some of the fuel treatment “lessons learned” from the Roaring Lion Fire.  You can download a copy of the agenda by tapping here.

While funds in our 4th Hazardous Fuels Grant are obligated, a new grant covering the North half of Flathead County has funds available that can be used in the North Fork. The Flathead Economic Policy Center (FEPC) administers the grants and provides landowners and the committee with invaluable technical assistance. Since taking over administration of Hazardous Fuels Grants in the North Fork in 2012 from the Northwest Montana RC&D, FEPC has administered over $153,000 in grants in the North Fork and treated 241 acres with landowner contributions totaling $129,000.

With the retirement of our friend Mason Richwine, a FEPC forester who has worked with many North Fork landowners, Tony Willits will be taking over administration of projects in the North Fork. We look forward to working with Tony, who brings a wealth of forestry and fire experience to the position as did Mason. Bill Swope will continue to work with us, and can be reached at 406-250-9812 or at

Flathead County is continuing to work on revision of its Community Wildfire Protection Plan. The Fire Mitigation Committee expects to update its North Fork Wildfire Mitigation and Planning Report in conjunction with the county’s revision. We’ll need community input in the process. We’ll also need to update maps of the significant public and private work that’s been done on the North Fork since the fires of 2003.

2017 North Fork Firewise Day

Firewise Day 2017The NFLA’s Fire Mitigation Committee sponsored its annual Firewise Day workshop on July 19, 2017, immediately preceding the Summer Interlocal meeting.  About 55 people attended.  The program was compelling and well-received by attendees. For more information and excellent recommendations on how to prepare for a wildland fire, tap here to read a post co-authored by Molly Shepherd and Allen Chrisman.

Fire Mitigation Committee Report, June 2017

From Co-Chairs Molly Shepherd and Allen Chrisman

Firewise DayThe Fire Mitigation Committee met in May to plan its activities for the year, including its annual Firewise Day workshop.  The workshop will be held in Sondreson Hall on Wednesday, July 19, 2017 from 9:30 a.m. to noon, preceding the Summer Interlocal.

Our principal speaker this year will be Byron Bonney, who has been instrumental in working with landowners on hazardous fuels treatments in the Bitterroot Valley.  He’ll tell us about the effects of those treatments in the area burned by the Roaring Lion Fire last summer.   The fire was aptly named:  it came roaring out of a canyon and then fanned out into the valley, behavior that is also typical of many North Fork fires.  Although the Roaring Lion Fire destroyed a number of homes, most of the homes whose owners had created defensible space around them were spared.  The treatments brought fire to the ground and limited the fuels that could be ignited by flying embers.  They also improved the chance of survival for neighbors’ homes downwind.  So as we’ll hear at the workshop, the fire provided important corroboration of the value of defensible space.

We’ll also hear from Lincoln Chute, Director of Emergency Services for Flathead County and a member of our committee.  He’ll talk about the county’s pending revision of its Community Wildfire Protection Plan or CWPP.  The committee expects to update the North Fork’s fire plan in conjunction with the county’s revision.  Lots of work has been done since our last update in 2009, as maps will demonstrate.  Community input is required in the CWPP process so landowners can expect to hear more about the project this summer.

With respect to the status of our cost-share assistance grants, we basically have $10,000 left in our current grant.  We may apply for another, smaller grant.  But we also have potential access to funds from grants that cover larger areas of the county.  There’s now a fair amount of flexibility in where the monies can be spent.  Landowners who are interested in creating defensible space around their North Fork homes should contact Bill Swope at 406.250.9812 or  Mason Richwine, who has worked with many North Fork landowners over the last 10+years, has retired.

Finally, the June 1 Wildland Fire Potential is posted on the NFLA website.  The Northern Rockies’ outlook is for a slower than normal fire season in June and July, moving to normal in August and September.  But we can’t be complacent:  hot, dry, windy days cure out fine fuels, making them more combustible.  Landowners should be cautious about any burning, and do so only with a permit.   Now is also a good time to clean up accumulated flammable debris around our homes, so it doesn’t provide a fuel bed for embers.

Information about Fires

An interagency fire information line has been established in order to streamline calls, share facts and serve the public during fire season. The Office of Emergency Services Information Line is 406-758-2111, and the Interagency Fire Fact Sheet can be found at:  Fact sheets will be updated as needed during the fire season.

DNCR Interactive Wildland Fire Map – Great summary of the fires that are going on everywhere.

Fire Imagery – Remote Sensing Applications Center – Tap on MODIS Satellite Imagery to get information about where our smoke is coming from.

WildCAD – Kalispell Interagency Dispatch Center – Dispatches from our area. It can be a little difficult to interpret, but useful.

InciWeb – A national website showing the big fires under active management. This page is for Montana.

Active Fire Map Program – Nice map of large fires.

Northern Rockies Coordination Center – More good incident information.

Montana DEQ (Air Quality) – Some information about the air quality and suggestions on what to do.

Latest News from the Fire Mitigation Committee

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