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By Signe Leirfallom
Community Forester 

Get Ready for the Next Fire Season


September 14, 2017

Photo provided

Forester Signe Leirfallom (left) describes CRC's Fuel Mitigation Program to Carole White.

Despite a snowy winter and wet spring, fire season hit western Montana hard in 2017. Wildfire is inevitable in Montana. Our forests are adapted to fire, and our climate is conducive to it. In this challenging fire season, landowners and homeowners who live in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) are reminded that we need to take responsibility in preparing our property for wildfire. It is the least we can do to help the firefighters and fire managers who work so hard and often risk their lives to protect it.

The WUI is where the forest and community meet. It is a pleasant place to live, but comes with risk. While wildfires are driven by a combination of weather, fuels and topography, they are often unpredictable. Weather events may change the trajectory of a fire in the matter of a few minutes. Under these circumstances, firefighters may not be able to safely defend homes against fire. However, there are numerous resources available to landowners who wish to prepare their property ahead of time, giving firefighters the best and safest chance.

The Clearwater Resource Council (, 406-677-0069) offers grants to landowners who choose to thin and remove heavy forest fuels from their property. The grant generally pays up to 50 percent of the total project cost. Wood products that come off the property as part of the project can often reduce the landowner's cost significantly. Fuel reduction will not necessarily "stop" a fire, but it will often bring the fire to the ground, which creates safe "defensible space" for firefighters to work, reduces mortality in the remaining trees and can help protect a home.

Thinning alone will not save your home. Homes are built with combustible materials that can ignite from embers or sparks, regardless of whether the surrounding forest is thinned. The Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation and/or local fire departments offer free home assessments that will give homeowners valuable information and recommend action items to make their homes more fire-resistant. Call DNRC Clearwater Unit at 406-244-5857 to take advantage of this opportunity.

When the smoke finally clears in Seeley, be proactive not complacent. Use the fall, winter and spring months to get your home and property ready for the next fire. It will come.


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