HELENA – The Tri-County Fire Safe Working Group is holding a community presentation this week to discuss wildfire preparedness.
The talk, titled “Wildfire in your neighborhood: Are we next?”, featured presentations from Santa Rosa, CA Fire Chief Tony Gossner and Fire Scientist Mark Finney.
Mark Finney of the Missoula Fire Sciences Lab began the presentation with a contextualized look at fire in Montana and fire management throughout U.S. history.
The Great Fire of 1910 changed the culture of forest and fire management in the U.S. Instead of letting fires burn as much the fires were fought and extinguished.
“We’re basically in a fire deficit,” said Finney, “We’ve historically burned a great deal more and the absence of fire, the removal of fire from those fire dependent ecosystems means that the fuels are accumulating.”
Finney added that ultimately there is no escaping wildfire; it’s going to happen eventually.
“We can choose when and what type of fires we experience with prescribed burns though,” said Finney.
Santa Rosa Fire Chief Tony Gossner came from California to share how his community was affected the devastating Tubbs Fire that destroyed 2,800 homes and claimed the lives of 22 people.
Gossner said if people take one thing away from his experience it is to be prepared for the worst.
“Nobody thinks it can happen to them and it can happen to you,” said Gossner, “When the conditions line up it can and when it does happen it’s going to happen very fast.”
Many local fire officials were present for the event and said the expert input is invaluable for helping combat and recognize the potential of future fires.
Pat McKelvey of Tri-County Fire Safe said that one of the reasons for the presentation is to help bridge the divide between firefighters and homeowners.
“We want the land owners to believe and feel like their sharing in the responsibility,” said McKelvey, “Think of your firefighters. Firefighter safety first, last and always.”
The presentation will be held again Wednesday June 27th at 7pm in Helena Middle School in the auditorium.