Since 2011, Montana's Lincoln County FireSafe Council has sponsored three Firewise bus tours; with the most recent event held in the City of Troy. The tours create awareness of wildfire hazards for both citizens and community leaders and demonstrate the steps that can be taken to mitigate the hazards. Participants learn about the local FireWise program, receive a rare opportunity to get a tour of mitigation projects in various stages, hear what the county is doing to prepare for a wildfire and what residents can personally do to become better prepared.
This year’s event was attended by 25 guests who were welcomed to the tour by Lincoln County’s FireSafe Council Chairman, Ed Levert. The tour started with a presentation on their FireWise Program, which was followed by the group boarding a bus for a tour through the Troy area to look at past and proposed fuel reduction projects on private, county and national forest lands. The area’s first fuel reduction projects are now more than ten years old and the in-growth over that period of time indicates additional treatments will soon be needed.
Jennifer Mayberry LaManna, director of FireSafe Montana gave a presentation on the statewide program and showed the video, “One Third Mile From Safety”, based on a real-life tragedy in California; while attendees enjoyed a lunch provided by the FireSafe Council. The group then traveled to the nearby McCormick area to look at a recently completed Forest Service fuels project that provided a needed treatment along the major access routes in the community. Linda Hubbell, District Fire Management Officer provided information on this project.
Deputy Sheriff, Kirk Kraft; Assistant Director of Lincoln County Disaster and Emergency Services, Lisa Odewaldt and McCormick Rural Fire District Chief, Mike Harris also met with the group to talk about evacuation planning and the county’s current efforts to develop an in-depth plan that addresses primary and secondary evacuation routes, important resource information, home identification, the county’s evacuation software program and the radio communication system.
One of those in attendance was a Troy City Councilperson that promised to work on Troy establishing recognized Firewise Communities/USA sites; and an attendee from the Whitefish FireSafe Council shared that this kind of tour is just what his community needs.
The day's activities brought many successes that included identifying key neighborhood contacts, potential grant opportunities, and important information sharing amongst agencies, firefighters and residents. Fire Safe Council Chair, Ed Levert believes the group came away with a better appreciation of everyone’s role in helping reduce the fire risk in the wildland/urban interface and the actions that will take place during future wildfire events.