By Moira Blazi
The Libby Chamber of commerce held its May general Meeting and Luncheon on Wednesday May 9 at the historic Hidden chapel restaurant, home of The Gracious Table. In addition to a sumptuous lunch provided by Gracious Table owner and chamber member Mandy Bell, the meeting offered a presentation by Lincoln County Forester Ed Levert who discussed residential wildfire awareness and prevention.
Speaking mostly about the county’s Firewise Program, Levert reminded attendees that we live in a “fire ecology” zone and that, concerning wildfires, “it’s not if it’s going to happen, it’s when it’s going to happen.”
Levert said that between 2000 and 2014 over 5 million acres and 1,100 homes burned in our state, with over 75,000 acres burned just last year, and that Lincoln County is now rated the second highest in fire risk in the state following very closely behind Missoula County.
Levert spoke about the importance of topography when assessing risk, with homes built on ridgetops and saddles at higher risk. He reminded the group that it is the embers, rather than the active fire wall which ignites most homes and of the importance of buffer zones and evacuation plans in wooded residential neighborhoods.
With 72% of new building permits going to properties in the wild woodland interface zone, Levert emphasized the importance of up to date street and house number signage, establishing neighborhood networks, and registering mobile phones in the reverse 911 code red system, which enables wildland firefighting agencies to contact homeowners in emergency situations.
The Firewise program offers free home assessments. Residents interested can contact the fire department.
Levert who manages the Firewise program for Lincoln County will retire from his position in a few weeks and at this time no one has been hired to replace him.
Although the position has not yet been posted, County Administrator Darren Coldwell confirmed that the job description is being written and that the position will be posted.
It will likely be a more robust position encompassing other aspects such as mining and timber production in addition to the Firewise program, Coldwell told the Montanian last Wednesday.