County continues work on Community Wildfire Protection Plan

Working with Big Sky Hazard Management of Bozeman, numerous organizations have put together a living document to help Madison County residents be prepared for wildfires.

In May 2011, a committee was formed to update the 2003 Community Wildfire Protection Plan. Prior legislation in the 2009 session required local governments to include analyses and regulations for wildfire hazard areas in their growth policies and subdivision regulations. This plan helps Madison County meet these requirements.  The 2003 version of the document came about from the National Fire Plan in 2000. That year was a significant national wildfire season across the country.

Personal responsibility by landowners and residents is stressed in the plan, which Madison County planning director Charity Fechter said she was happy to see.

“I am glad they included this right at the beginning,” Fechter said. “Property owners need to keep as safe as they possibly can and have a plan that they know.”

Local committee members include the county planning department, Madison Valley Rural Fire District and the Harrison Rural Fire District. Additional participants in the planning include local fire agencies throughout the county. The Madison County Department of Emergency Services maintains the plan according to Chris Mumme, Director of Emergency Management, with help from committee members. It consists of community descriptions, county fire history, protection capabilities, risk assessments, mitigation and strategies. Additions and deletions will be made, as the situation requires.

The Madison County Planning Board will formally adopt the plan and incorporate it into the county’s growth policy. Mumme said that this action provides an emphasis for proactive measures in regards to future subdivisions and communities being constructed in the wildland urban interface.

“Property owners, residents and visitors need to understand the risks of living or being in the Wildland Urban Interface,” Mumme said. “Knowing the risks, such as whether you are physically and emotionally prepared, whether enough advance preparation was done to defend your property safely, and whether other family members will be able to cope with their situation given the conditions is vital.”

Residents of Madison County are encouraged to attend public hearings, which will be held during the updating process of the plan. The updated draft plan can be found online at www.bigskyhazards.com/draftplans.asp and will be posted on the county website at www.madison.mt.gov and www.madison.homestead.com. Questions can be directed to Chris Mumme at 843-4253.

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