Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Now is time to prepare for wildfire

by Larry Wilson
| May 24, 2023 2:00 AM

I don’t need to report that the North Fork was filled with smoke last week. Anyone who could breath or see already knows about the smoke. It filled the North Fork, Western Montana and almost the entire state. The unusual part is the time of year.

We have seen and experienced lots of smoke in recent years, but I don’t remember so much smoke in May.

The causes of global warming are way above my pay grade, but it is an obvious fact that the wildfire season is longer than it used to be. Whether it is caused by natural warming, combustion engines or mismanagement of our forests really doesn’t matter. Now we are facing fire seasons that stretch from May clear to October.

For most of us ordinary citizens that means we must do everything we can to protect ourselves and our property while voting for people who can best solve our problems.

Now is the time to prepare for fire on the North Fork. First step is to make a plan. What will you do if you and your property are threatened? Will you evacuate? What will you take with you?

When I was told that the Wedge Fire might well burn my property I loaded up my guns and photographs and nothing else. My thought at the time was “if my property is burnt over why would I care about the cabin?” For the next three days as the fire did not make a run I left my car loaded and worked with my neighbors to hope for the best and prepare for the worst.

My cabin was sprayed with fire retardant, we established a safety zone at the Meeker cabin by the river. We filled our water trailers and even did some thinning around the cabins.

When the fire did blow up I was told the fire could be at my house in 15 minutes, I took what I thought would be my last walk through the cabin and wished I had emptied out when I had time, hooked up my water trailer with 350 gallons of water and left.

As it turns out, the “Trail Creek Irregulars” made up of neighbors managed to hold the fire west of the North Fork Road and south of Kintla Ranch Road.

This was made possible by the presence of the roads, our fleet of water trailers and the Ogle’s good well which was close and we could refill quickly.

When the forest service brought bulldozers and put in a fire lane clear to the river we could pretty much stand down. Our efforts saved multiple cabins and stopped a possible run to the north. I don’t think we could do it today. Our “Trail Creek Irregulars” are either dead or too old. Now I could only evacuate.