Now is a good time to ponder the dynamics of wildfire

As sure as the coming spring will bring a new green foliage, the coming summer will bring new costly wildfires across Montana. The cost is to our budgets, firefighters, forests, and possibly even our own homes. As you may be cozily sitting by an indoor fire, keeping warm on these chilly winter nights, it might be a good time to ponder the dynamics of wildfire to understand the risk it brings to your property and what you can do about it. 

The following is an excerpt from Firewise’s very informative website:

• Fire requires fuel, heat and oxygen in order to burn. In a wildfire, vegetation is fuel – as are homes and structures. The wind provides the oxygen.

• Consideration of the fuels, topography and weather of a location can give an indication of areas that may be more at risk during a major wildland fire. 

• The arrangement of fuels known as “ladder fuels” is one of the more significant ways wildfires gain strength and power. In a typical scenario, a wildfire starts in light fuel – often grass. It burns rapidly through the grass to nearby trees. Once at the base of a tree, it moves into low branches and climbs to the top or “crowns.”

• Generally, a fire moving up a slope moves faster and has longer flames than one on level ground. This is because hot gases rise in front of it, preheating its path. 

• Wind is also a major factor in the spread of wildfire. Fires need air to continue burning, and large fires need a lot of air. Wind can cause wildfires to grow quickly, to die down, to change direction, or even to move downhill as fast as they do uphill.

A fuels mitigation program funded by a grant from the Bureau of Land Management and managed via a partnership among SMDC and the various County Conservation Districts in Petroleum, Musselshell and Judith Basin counties offers rural landowners a cost-share program that can cover up to 75 percent of the cost of fuel reduction efforts around a home site. A major emphasis of the Fuels Mitigation Program is to empower homeowners to take responsibility for making their homes as wildfire defensible as possible. 

If you would like to learn more about the Firewise Program visit www.Firewise.org.  For information on the fuels mitigation program, contact Snowy Mountain Development Corporation at 535-2591, or one of these County Conservation District administrators: Fergus and Judith Basin counties: Teresa Wilhelms, 566-2311, ext. 107; Golden Valley and Musselshell counties: Donna Pedrazzi, 323-2103, ext. 101; and Petroleum County: Carie Hess, 429-6646, ext. 4.

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