Phase one of forest mitigation work is underway on the Upper Grizzly Gulch Project near Helena.
The $24,000 project -- paid for by funds from the U.S. Forest Service -- is being done on 3,500 feet on either side of the road, which runs about a half mile past the intersection of Oro Fino Gulch Gulch and Grizzly Gulch.
Crews were utilizing a boom mounted grapple saw to make quick work thinning out trees by the road and piling them up on Thursday.
“This is kind of a unique project,” said Pat McKelvey, Tri County Fire Safe Working Group project manager. “This has U.S. Forest Service ground on one side, private ground on the other and it’s a county road.”
McKelvey says the work improved the road as evacuation route and will in turn help firefighters respond to the area in the case of a wildland fire.
“What we’re creating is a firebreak as well,” said McKelvey. “We know from all of our computer studies, the topography and the things that we’ve looked at over the years, that this is one of the approaches for fire into the City of Helena.”
Phase one comprises of mechanical work and will continue through next week. Phase two in the spring of 2020 will involve hand crews that can get deeper into the terrain.
“I hope this project demonstrates that mitigation isn’t just something that you want to do in the summertime or when the fire is threatening,” added McKelvey. “We can do it year-round. There are a lot of projects in the wings right now and we’re hoping that we can add more.”
Mitigation grants are currently available through the Tri County Fire Safe Working Group. More information can be found on their website.