Wildfire season heats up in Montana

Published on September 9, 2011
Firewise tips can reduce your home’s risk from wildfire

FirewiseSeptember 8, 2011 – As students go back to school, wildfire season reaches its peak in Montana. State fire officials say that in the last week of August there were more than 42,000 lightning strikes in a 36-hour period that sparked over three dozen wildfires in and around the Northern Rockies. According to published reports, one of the lightning strikes resulted in a 2,000 acre wildfire that threatened 256 homes before firefighters set up protection lines.

With wildfire season underway, Montana communities are looking for ways to reduce wildfire risk. Many Montanans have already taken steps to have their communities become recognized Firewise Communities and have lowered their risk of wildfire damage. The city of Bigfork, Em Kayan Village, and neighborhoods such as Elkhorn in Whitefish are among 15 communities within the state that participate in the national Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program, and have undertaken wildfire safety efforts for several years.

Wildfire doesn’t have to burn everything in its path. In fact, clearing your property of debris and maintaining your home’s landscaping are important first steps to reduce your risk for wildfire damage. Here are eight steps you can take to reduce the risk of your home and property becoming fuel for a wildfire.

  • Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This helps prevent embers from igniting your home.
  • Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.
  • Remove fuel within 3-5 feet of your home’s foundation and outbuildings including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch your house, deck or porch.
  • Clear vegetation surrounding your home, at least 30 to 100 feet, depending on your area’s wildfire risk.
  • Wildfire can spread to tree tops. If you have large trees on your property, prune so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet high.
  • Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings linger. Dispose of these items quickly to reduce fuel for fire.
  • When planting, choose slow-growing, carefully placed shrubs and trees so the area can be more easily maintained.
  • Landscape with native and less-flammable plants. Your state forestry agency or county extension office can provide plant information.

Planning to update your home? Our materials and resources webpage can help you choose which Firewise construction materials are best for decks, porches and fences. Ask your retailer for “Class-A” materials including asphalt shingles and metal, cement and concrete products. Double-paned or tempered glass windows also make a home more resistant to heat and flames. Learn more about how to keep your family safe and reduce your home’s risk for wildfire damage, and find additional landscaping tips and checklists for preparing and maintaining your property at www.firewise.org.

About Firewise
The Firewise Communities Program encourages local solutions for wildfire safety by involving homeowners, community leaders, planners, developers, firefighters and others in creating fire-adapted communities – places where people and property are safer from the risk of brush, grass and forest fires. Firewise is a program of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and co-sponsored by the USDA Forest Service, the US Department of the Interior and the National Association of State Foresters.

About the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA)
NFPA is a worldwide leader in fire, electrical, building, and life safety. The mission of the international nonprofit organization founded in 1896 is to reduce the worldwide burden of fire and other hazards on the quality of life by providing and advocating consensus codes and standards, research, training, and education.

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Media Contact: Lorraine Carli, +1 617 984-7275
Program Contact: Michele Steinberg, +1 617 984-7487