Wednesday, June 25, 2014

County adopts wildfire plan update

Commissioners want more involvement in planning process


By GREG MOORE
Express Staff Writer

The Beaver Creek Fire burned one house and threatened many others as it burned more than 110,000 acres of land on the west side of the Wood River Valley last August. Express file photo

    The Blaine County commissioners on Tuesday took a step to become more involved in wildfire prevention planning.
    During a meeting at the county annex building, Wood River Fire & Rescue Chief Bart Lassman presented the two commissioners present—Larry Schoen and Angenie McCleary—with updates to a county Community Wildfire Protection Plan, first adopted by the county in 2004.
    Since then, the plan has been updated four times by a County Fire Working Group, composed of 19 officials from local fire departments, the U.S. Forest Service and the county Building and Emergency Services departments. Lassman said the most recent update is the result of meetings of the group in February and March.
    However, none of the updates had been adopted by county government, and the working group itself had been flying under the commissioners’ radar, a situation that Schoen called “frustrating,” considering the commissioners’ close involvement in other wildfire planning and rehabilitation activities. McCleary said she had been thinking of proposing just such a group, and was glad to find out that it already existed.
    “For the three commissioners to be aware of this plan and to have adopted it seems very valuable,” McCleary said. “Wildfire is one of the major concerns of our community, and I think it’s essential for the commissioners to do anything they can.”


Wildfire is one of the major concerns of our community.”
Angenie McCleary
Commissioner




    McCleary volunteered to attend future meetings as the commissioners’ representative.
    The wildfire protection plan consists of preventive education and hazardous fuels treatments to be undertaken in various residential neighborhoods and on public land. It also lists needed equipment and infrastructure improvements.
    At the top of the list of 16 neighborhoods slated for prevention measures are Heatherlands, Greenhorn, Smiley Creek, Eagle Creek and Elkhorn. Lassman said he had also wanted to promote fire-wise measures in Starweather subdivision, where houses were saved by firefighters last August during the Beaver Creek Fire, but homeowners there had declined to participate.
    “They do want your help when a fire breaks out,” Schoen said.
    “Exactly,” Lassman answered.
    At the top of the list for fuel reductions on federal lands are Bell Mountain, Martin Canyon, Bald Mountain, Deer Creek and west of Little Wood Reservoir Road.
    The list of needed fire-fighting resources includes personal protection equipment, wildland firefighting training and recruitment, collaborative grant applications and additional stations in Sun Valley, Ketchum and Hailey.
Greg Moore: gmoore@mtexpress.com




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