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Entries in Montana wildfires (7)


Missoula forum to discuss lessons from 2017 fire season

(MISSOULA)- It's not the worst fire season Montana has faced.

But the summer of 2017 could be a forecast of fire seasons to come. 

Over one million acres burned across Montana this year, driven largely by five or six major fires which scorched 50,000 to more than 100,000 acres and the Lodgepole Fire in Eastern Montana which consumed 270,000 acres of forest and open range land. It's considered the worst fire season in a decade or more. 

A special forum tonight will discuss the challenges, and lessons learned from the volatile 2017 fire season.

"Living with Fire" will bring together a panel of fire managers and specialists to to discuss not only the past season, but the trends which could impact future summers here in Western Montana. The forum is sponsored by "Treesource", a new online magazine dealing with forest issues. The forum starts at 7 in the UC Theater on the University of Montana campus and is free and open to the public. 


Fire danger looks below average this year

Lolo Creek Complex blows up, August 2013- Dennis Bragg photo(MISSOULA)- In 2012 it was Eastern Montana that faced the worst fires, as massive blazes burned across wide stretches of open and forested lands. 

Last year it was Western Montana's turn, as a series of intense, hot fires began burning in mid-July and kept burning through August, causing hundreds of thousands of dollars in damage and firefighting expense. 

But at this point at least, it appears 2014 could see a much different scenario across the Treasure State. 

The annual report on the wildfire threat in the West, issued by the National Interagency Fire Center in Boise says the Northern Rockies will likely be the one place in the U.S. to see a "below average" risk of wildfire from May through August. 

And it really comes down to the snowpack and wet weather we've had since the first of February. While much of the winter had been fairly mild through January, the swing to intense storms, coupled with cool and showery weather into the spring is going to delay the start of the fire season. 

The fire forecasters are saying while some of the trees and brush are finally starting to "green up" now, the curing and drying of field is expected to be delayed. In fact, they say there's the possibility fuels won't become critically dry or fully cured in most areas of Western and Eastern Montana, Northern Wyoming and Northern Idaho until August. While that doesn't eliminate the risk of wildfire, those conditions could at least shorten our fire season for the first time since 2011. 


High winds forecast at Helena fire

KXLH photo(HELENA)- Fire managers have a close eye on the weather this morning, as they launch another day of attacking the spreading Corral Fire near Helena.

The fire had burned over 700-acres in just 8-hours by late Monday night. That forced the evacuation of some 200 homes, burning three homes along with some trailers. 

The battle continues this morning, but the weather continues to be the biggest enemy to fire crews. An arriving cold front could drive winds to as high as 40 mph, starting around noon today. 



Accidents cut supply of air tankers as fire season begins

Neptune jet featured on company's website(MISSOULA)- Sunday’s crash of a Neptune Aviation fire place in Utah, and an emergency landing by another company’s plane in Nevada means there are only 9 flyable fire bombers left in the entire country, even as the 2012 fire season is just getting started.

Two crew members from Boise were killed Sunday when Neptune’s “Tanker 11” went down near the Utah-Nevada border after experiencing problems as it was making its second retardant run of the day. A Minden Air Corp plane, also one of the aging P2V tankers, had to make an emergency landing in Western Nevada Sunday morning when part of its landing gear failed to deploy.

That leaves the Forest Service with only 9 large tankers under contract to fight fires for the entire country. With Tanker 11 destroyed in Sunday’s crash, and the Minden plane suffering major damage in the emergency landing, the agency has just 8-conventional tankers and Neptune’s jet-powered tanker on contract. And the jet, known as the BAe-146, is seeing its first work on an “interim basis” after undergoing extensive tests in Missoula last year.

By comparison, the Forest Service had 44-tankers a decade ago for the 2002 fire season.

The agency had solicited proposals for “next generation” tankers like the Neptune jet. That process closed back in February but the Forest Service has yet to make any decisions about putting those any new planes on line, with the exception of using the Neptune jet this summer. 


No alarm, but resolve over al Qaeda Montana fire threat

page from al Qaeda's "Inspire" magazine urging fire attacks in Montana(DARBY)- al Qaeda may have Montana’s extensive forests in its sights for a “firebomb” terrorist attack. But fire managers say the threat is something they’ve thought about for years… a threat they can counter by sharing information.

The threats come from al Qaeda’s online magazine “Inspire.” The threats are cold-blooded in their reasoning, but nothing new in a country where arsonists have started fires before.

al Qaeda’s article “It is for your freedom to ignite a firebomb”, notes how the 2000 fires “spread to a space equal to the size of London” burning houses and cars. And it uses those fires, and examples of huge wildfires in Australia as proof that wildfire could be used to spread more terror to advance the group's "Holy War."

The anonymous authors say they “mention such examples only to show the magnitude of the destructive impact that fires or firebombs make”, suggesting it would be possible to “cause a much bigger destructive impact” in a “shorter period of time. The report then goes into graphic detail on how to make and use a firebomb, giving advice on how to start various fires in the right weather conditions. 

The danger posed by a terrorist-caused wildfire has been raised by fire managers before. 6-years ago, Dick Mangan, then-president of the International Association of Wildland Fire wrote an article entitled "Terrorists in the Woods" warning that the Missoula area fit all the criteria for terrorists to use wildfire, and challenging fire managers to analyze their preparations for a possible attack.

And the group says this threat shows the need for fire agencies to be constantly working together.

“It does," says IAWF spokeswoman Paula Nelson. "And the technology we have out there from the old way of doing things like having lookouts stationed on mountain tops who are out looking for fire starts as well as aircraft going over, people who are mobile, good communication devices. It’s a whole spectrum. It’s keeping it safe.”

Nelson admits it is somewhat surprising to see her hometown mentioned in the al Qaeda publication.  

“Well it’s remarkable in a way and I think that folks in Darby, just as folks across Montana are always focused on fire preparedness."