Northwest Montana community working to become "Firewise" - KPAX.com | Continuous News | Missoula & Western Montana

Northwest Montana community working to become "Firewise"

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MARTIN CITY - Coming off of an unprecedented wildfire season that some climate science experts say could be the new norm, one local community in Northwest Montana is taking action to better adapt their homes before the next wildfire season.

Living in the gated community of Glacier Hills with Glacier National Park only miles away comes with the sobering uncertainty of living in a region susceptible to wildfires. As the Sprague Fire destroyed the Sperry Chalet and threatened Lake McDonald Lodge, homeowners in the neighborhood braced.

"Well, we're only about 18-miles from that fire. What was going through our mind was number one we hope the wind doesn't change and number two we hope we have done enough to be able to survive if the fire does come down on top of us,” said Firewise committee member Rich Baginski.

If a wildfire were to come down on top of him, Baginski and his wife Carole have prepared their home to make it safer from embers and heat.

"Around our home what you will see is the first four feet is stone, non-combustible stone up against non-combustible surfaces,” Rich explained. “Hard-board siding. So, the whole idea is to keep the flames or any potential fires away from the home and if embers should land nothing for them to be able to burn."

With the Baginski's leading the way, by 2014 92% of the 16 homes in the community had been assessed with recommendations on how to reduce fuels and create action plans.

On top of preparing their homes to be fire safe the community of Glacier Hills also contacted a company to help them reduce the fuels in the forest surrounding their homes.

"The mitigation we have done here has been extensive but I feel like it's protecting our investment and making the whole community safer,” Carole said.

The community has developed a standard for using reflective address signs, instituted three helicopter landing sites, identified ponds and reservoirs firefighters could use as water resources and cleared brush to provide a buffer zone between roads and vegetation.  

Glacier Hills became a Recognized Firewise Community in 2016.

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