County holds barbecue and meeting to discuss wildfire protection plan

Troy Martin cuts off barbecued pork from a roasted pig at Madison County's free barbecue to get input on the Community Wildlfire Protection Plan. Photo by Greg Lemon

With fire season already underway this summer, the Madison County Emergency Management Department is looking for public input into the 2012 update of the county Community Wildfire Protection Plan.

Officials from Madison County, the Beaverhead Deerlodge National Forest, the Bureau of Land Management and the Madison Valley Volunteer Fire Department met with citizens last Wednesday night at the Ennis Fire Hall.

The gathering consisted of a free pig roast and was hosted by Madison County.

The Community Wildfire Protection Plan was developed in 2003 and updated again in 2006, said Chris Mumme, director of Madison County Department of Emergency Management.

The plan is a dynamic document that can continually be updated, but every five years it needs to be opened up and thoroughly reviewed. The 2012 update of the plan will likely be completed in September, Mumme said.

“The Madison County Community Wildfire Protection Plan is intended to reduce the risk of a catastrophic wildland urban interface fire event in Madison County by providing guidance to first responders, local officials, and state and federal agencies on the wildland fire hazard, mitigation strategies, and management priorities,” reads the introduction to the plan.

The idea behind soliciting input from the public is to get guidance from homeowners and neighborhoods on priorities for hazardous fuels reduction projects or other work along the private and federal land boundaries in Madison County, Jon Agner, fire management officer for the Madison Ranger District, told about 40 people gathered at the fire hall.

“Tell us what specifically you want to see done around your neighborhood,” Agner said. “It’s a real opportunity for you to have a say with what happens on the land next to your properties.”

This fire season has already been intense around Madison County with both major fires burning homes, he said.

Madison County is home to a variety of different types of land and vegetation, so fire burns differently in different parts of the county, Agner said.

Basically, it splits up into three basic types: grasslands; grass, sage and juniper mixed; and dense conifer forests. Between the Pony Fire and the Bear Trap 2 Fire, all three fuel types have been involved, he said.

Understanding the types of fuel around your property is important, Agner said. He encouraged people with questions to call local fire officials. They can come out to your home and tell you about the fire danger on your property and what sort of things can be done to address it.

“There’s a lot of things you can do to protect your home and property,” he said.

Most homes burned in a wildfire are not burned by the flame front, but rather the “ember storm” that follows, Agner said.

Embers collect around a home in the same way snow, dust and debris does, he said. When embers find collections of flammable debris in the corner of window sills, decks, or doorways they can easily ignite.

“It’s really smart to look for those things that are flammable around your house,” Agner said.

Ideally, neighbors who live in the wildland urban interface would get together and talk about things they’d like to see land management agencies do to address the fire danger around their homes or subdivisions, Mumme said.

The county is also hoping citizens would be interested in participating in the final updates to the plan, he said.

“If they’re interested in helping out and jumping on our committee, we’ll be having some meetings in the near future,” Mumme said.

To contact Mumme at the Madison County Department of Emergency Management, call 843-4253 or email him at direms@3rivers.net.

Mumme has another free barbecue and meeting planned for the Ruby Valley. The event will be held at Kiwanis Park in Sheridan Aug. 8 at 6:30 p.m.

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