HELENA – Leaders from the public and private sector gathered Wednesday to discuss the fires burning around Lewis and Clark County, and how to mitigate wildfire risk going forward.
The county’s Local Emergency Preparedness Committee held their monthly meeting. Disaster and emergency coordinator Reese Martin briefed the committee members on the largest fires in the area.
Martin also said the county will apply for Hazard Mitigation Grants through the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to help pay for wildfire mitigation projects. Lewis and Clark County is eligible for the program because FEMA approved a Fire Management Assistance declaration for last year’s Alice Creek Fire – acknowledging the fire created the threat of a major disaster.
Martin asked committee members to think about important structures and areas that might need greater protection. They also plan to work with the Tri-County FireSafe Working Group in identifying mitigation priorities.
The Local Emergency Preparedness Committee includes representatives from a variety of groups – everything from law enforcement and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, to community organizations like the Salvation Army and Red Cross, to local businesses and health care providers.
“LEPC works for the county, and that includes all the residents of the county,” said Gayle Shirley, public information officer for the county emergency operations center. “So we do want to hear different perspectives, different angles on what might happen in a disaster, what we might need to address. There’s a lot of expertise in this room, and we really value it and learn a lot from it.”
Shirley said it’s also valuable for people who may need to work together in an emergency to meet face-to-face.
“There are a lot of people who attend these committee meetings that I would never see,” she said. “But because I come to these meetings and I’ve met them and I’ve learned what they do, I know what they could do for us in a disaster, and I know they’re a resource out there that we can call on.”
At their Wednesday meeting, the committee also discussed the aftermath of this spring’s flooding, and possible ways to improve their response to a future flooding event.