Making your home safer when the big one comes

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Every year weather on the North Fork is unique. This summer has not been all hot and sunny. Timely rain showers, some really heavy, have kept wildfires at bay. Unlike southwest Montana, where there have been several fairly large fires, we have been spared. I am not aware of any fires on the North Fork and light, intermittent rain this week helps to hold down the fire danger. If everyone is careful, that could continue into the fall.

In the meantime, the community continues to work on making the North Fork safer. Trail Creek Road now has a fire break that makes our northern escape route more secure and private residents have continued projects that protect dwellings and access routes for firefighters as well as escape routes for residents.

Even so, we all know that fire will always be a possibility. In advance, we must make sure our buildings and lanes are as firesafe as possible. Second, we should have a plan in place for an emergency.

Family members, guests, and pets obviously come first. After that, things you imagine losing — vital papers, family heirlooms. The list can be long depending on whether or not the North Fork is your permanent, year-round home or just a two week vacation retreat.

In 2003 when the Wedge Fire was threatening to run, I had several days to plan for an evacuation. I moved a few large items into the middle of my clearing. Then I loaded my car. Included were my firearms, camera gear, and the negatives for my pictures. I did not load anything from inside the house because I thought if the cabin and the surrounding forest was burned the cabin contents would no longer be important.

Then, Rick Hagen came by and said I only had 15 minutes to evacuate. I had 350 gallons of water on a trailer and sprayed the house with it and then walked through the cabin for what I thought might be the last time. That is when I had second thoughts but it was too late to change the plan.

As it turned out, thanks to my water trailer and the efforts of neighbors, we kept the fire pretty much south of Kintla Ranch Road. My cabin and my neighbors’ cabins were not touched and while one neighbor lost a couple of acres of trees, his cabin did not burn either. We were lucky, but we were prepared too.

As a result, we have spent the last 13 years since the Wedge Fire making our properties more defendable.

It is an ongoing effort, that will never end. Dead fuels need to be removed, pre-commercial thinning needs to be done and then selective logging can maintain a healthy forest forever. Too bad the Forest Service doesn’t manage public lands that way.

What do you think?

Larry Wilson’s North Fork Views appear weekly in the Hungry Horse News.

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