Local resident benefits from Fuels Mitigation Program

 With help from the Fuels Mitigation Program funded by the Bureau of Land Management, and assisted by Snowy Mountain Development Corporation and local conservation districts, the Cilwick’s obtained professional advice and partial funding for reducing fuels on their property. 

Over the years, Montana has seen many damaging fire seasons. Individuals and communities can be greatly affected by wildfires and it can take years to recover. Many property owners do not always know they are at higher risk of wildfires due to dry fuels on their property such as fallen trees, dried bark, and dead limbs. Even more so, property owners can be unaware of ways to reduce their risk for wildfires. This was the case for Lewistown residents, Ted and Kristen Cilwick.

Ted said, “When my wife Kristen and I bought this 5.1-acre property and house in mid-2016, it had not been permanently lived on for 8-10 years. The house was surrounded on three sides with mature pine trees, most of the rest of the tract was thick with Ponderosa pines, stumps and deadfall, and there was a deep layer of dry fuels (bark and dead limbs) on the ground.”

What many people do not realize is that there is a program for property owners to help reduce potential wildfire fuels around a home site, which could ultimately reduce the risk of loss to your home and family. With help from Snowy Mountain Development Corporation and local conservation districts, property owners can enroll in the Fuels Mitigation Program funded by BLM. By enrolling, property owners will get a free evaluation of their property to assess wildfire risk, be advised as to how to reduce their risk, and receive partial reimbursements to help the property owner in removing fuels.

“After I enrolled in the wildfire mitigation program, retired forester Dan Hall arrived as our advisor. It became evident quickly that Hall is a big asset to the program. He taught us about the perils of ladder fuels, the advisability of crown space and the need to maintain vigilance over the tall, dry grasses well into October when, post-frost, they become even more potent kindling,” said Ted.

The Cilwick’s contract gave them 16 months to make improvements on 1.5 acres of their property. A final inspection was done on the property and an estimated 40 percent of the expenses it took to clean out the 115 fallen trees were reimbursed.

Ted feels much more equipped now, saying, “Today, we feel our home is much safer. Nonetheless, armed with what we learned, we intend further fire mitigation even though we have completed the program, as there are more trees to thin. Anyone in similar circumstances will certainly benefit from the program as we did.”

To learn more about the Fuels Mitigation Program please contact Snowy Mountain Development Corporation at 535-2591.

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