Wednesday, July 24, 2024

Fire season is here - are you ready?

| June 21, 2024 7:00 AM

Many of you have seen the news announcements of the large amounts of money coming to the Kootenai National Forest (KNF), Montana DNRC, Natural Resources and Conservation Service (NRCS) and Lincoln County for fuel reduction projects. 

The Kootenai Complex is one of only 10 fire prone landscapes across the Western United States that has been designated as a priority for implementing the Wildfire Crisis Strategy. $21.7 million has been received by the KNF alone in the last three years, according to coordinator Nikia Hernandez, with over 8,000 acres of fuels treatments already completed. 

There are also many other fuel reduction projects tied to timber sales that are scheduled or tied up in litigation.

The NRCS has spent over $1 million dollars a year for the past three years helping landowners with fuel reduction projects. The DNRC has a designated crew working with homeowners. So what does all of this mean? 

We have a full out assault by all agencies to protect the citizens of Lincoln County. Starting with the Lincoln County Community Fire Protection Plan (CWPP) priority treatment areas across the landscape were identified regardless of ownership. 

The cooperation and coordination of these agencies is unprecedented. What appears to be lacking in this attempt to keep our citizens safe from a wildfire are the citizens themselves.

Recently we held three Fire Adapted Community Workshops, sponsored by the Kootenai Forest Stakeholder Collaborative, to help homeowners better understand their role in addressing the wildfire problem.

These workshops covered subject material such as how to assess your home fire risk, grant assistance programs available, emerging insurance issues and wildfire preparation/evacuation.

While we found it discouraging that attendance at these three workshops was disappointingly low, we hope that in the future – should we offer the workshops again, there is more interest in learning more about this critical subject. 

We hope that people living in these heavily forested communities realize that while the Forest Service has responsibility for escaped fires on federal lands, private landowners and homeowners also bear responsibility for forest fuel management on their lands and adjacent to their homes.

As former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer once said, “Do not rely on anyone helping you out in the event of a wildfire, It is up to you to help yourself.” 

No truer words have ever been spoken. We hope that homeowners begin to show more interest in helping themselves, because it is the right thing to do and not wait until they find out that they can no longer get insurance coverage. 

Please do a Google search for Fire Adapted Kootenai to find how you can help yourself. 

You can also plan on attending the 2024 Kootenai Forest Stakeholder’s Collaborative Forest Fair in September as numerous agencies involved in fire suppression and forest and fuels management will be available to answer questions.

Tim Dougherty, Doug Ferrell, KFSC co-chairs