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Our 2018 wildfire season 


What’s this? January and rain, rain, rain. Dogs and cats mousing bare spots in the field. Few mice in the house, until trapped. Kind of normal for late February into March.

So off I go to National Weather Service, scroll down to Climatic Outlook, under Forecasts, where there are simple maps suggesting above average precipitation around here through April, and warmer temperatures May into November. Here’s a link. Check for yourself the simple color-coded maps as of January 18, 2018.

Over the years, I’ve found those maps to be reliable.

Perhaps for the second year, our forests are in for above average needle and foliage growth, then dry, warm weather even at high elevations. Maybe like last year, around the first of July, lightning strikes will torch trees. And like last year, lightning strike fires will spread, and spread.

Therefore, this year urge Ravalli County officials, legislators and candidates to work with Missoula County toward getting seats at the table discussing management of proximate future active wildfires impacting families, health, income and property. Seats, also voices, to protect families, health, and property.

Voices remembering 2013, when on the north side of Highway 12, winds from the west blew wildfire through 15 square miles of dry south slope forest and burned five homes. Burned close to Lolo. That fire came under Greg Poncin’s Type 1 Management team.

Voices recognizing that high dry forest up Mormon Creek was sufficient evidence for stopping the advancing 2017 Lolo Peak Fire at Lantern Ridge, before west winds blew wildfire into the Mormon Creek Drainage and the fire advanced eastward toward Lolo.

That lightning strike fire suppressed by Greg Poncin’s Type 1 Management team burned a mosaic pattern in 80 square miles of forest.

Voices recognizing that prevailing westerly winds, and high dry tinder box forest atop broad Carlton Ridge, was evidence aplenty to justify stopping active wildfire fire advance before it got into known warm, dry, broad Carlton Ridge.

But look what happened. The wildfire got into high, dry sub-alpine fir and standing dead Whitebark pine along broad Carlton Ridge, and ran six miles in a little more than 24 hours.

Look what did not happen!

If the fire was blocked from getting into Carlton Ridge, the fire would not have advanced south and deep into Ravalli County. Reports on InciWeb Lolo Peak Active Fire noted that the Carlton Ridge fire would next go into and up the north side of the Carlton Creek drainage.

If the active Lolo Peak Fire was prevented from advancing into Carlton Ridge, thousands and thousands of people in the Bitterroot would not have gotten smoky air in their blood systems.

Hundreds and hundreds of people would not have family life, expenses and incomes severely impacted by evacuation procedures.

Look again at days and days of thick, deadly wildfire smoke around Florence. Look again at the readings on the USFS pollution monitoring near Florence. Some days reading as bad as pollution readings at Seeley Lake.

Look at what might happen this year, when like last year, the combination of warmed West Coast ocean waters, plus La Nina, make for dry warm forests, and prolonged winds from the West.

Look how USFS is looking at the 2018 Region 1 wildfire season.

Look at how USFS, on active wildfires of severe consequence, has experienced personnel modeling different forward scenarios.

From what I’ve gathered, we the people, also County government, should have well positioned people voicing input about managing active wildfire threatening health, income, and private property in Ravalli and Missoula Counties.

Bob Williams 


One Response to Our 2018 wildfire season 
  1. Bob Williams
    February 9, 2018 | 1:30 pm

    Other MT Counties may also want strong voices, at dedicated seats at the table considering suppression of active wildfire potentially impacting life, health, income also property.

    Because in 2017, here in Montana, 2,190 square miles was burned through.

    At average suppression cost of over $180,000.00 per square mile.

    Since some of that money comes from the public,
    the public should have some say in how to manage active wildfire.

    In Montana in 2017, some $400,000,000 was spent managing wildfire,
    On some 1,400,000 acres.

    That averages out to about $285 per acre of managed wildfire.

    The 2017 Lolo Peak Fire cost about $1,000 per acre to manage.

    Below is a good current 2017 quick summary of wildfire in Montana in 2017.

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