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Wildfire preparation, adaptation, focus of the free seminar ‘Living with Wildfire’ in whitefish

Flathead Valley residents will have the opportunity to attend a free seminar this Wednesday at the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish that will focus on preparing and adapting to wildfire risks.

The June 12 event is called “Living with Wildfire” and is organized by Flathead Families for Responsible Growth and Fire Safe Flathead. The meeting will take place from 6:00 PM to 7:30 PM. Specialists and experts from the US Forest Service and the Montana Department of Natural Resources and Conservation will be among those in attendance. There will be additional presentations from insurance brokers, local emergency services and representatives of Flathead Families for Responsible Growth.

Topics covered include creating defensible space, the home’s ignition zone, implementing fire-resistant landscaping, developing a wildfire preparedness plan, and home insurance questions related to wildfire risks.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, Flathead County is becoming increasingly drier from west to east, while eastern parts of the county are experiencing extreme drought as of June 6.

In a June 1 report on the potential wildfire outlook, the National Interagency Fire Center expects parts of western Montana to show above-normal potential for significant wildfires by August. The June 1 report states that the northwest corner of Montana has received above-normal precipitation over the past 30 days, but so far is near to slightly below normal. In addition, the report notes that there is extreme drought in the alpine terrain of Glacier National Park and in a small area along the Idaho-Montana border.

Last year, wildfires in Montana burned 123,133 hectares, or about 192 square kilometers of land. The Northern Rockies Coordination Center, which coordinates resources for wildfire suppression in a region that includes Montana, North Dakota, Yellowstone National Park and parts of Northern Idaho and South Dakota, last year classified 27 wildfires in Montana as major incidents with a magnitude greater than than 100 hectares. Of these 27 major incidents, 69 buildings were destroyed and the estimated firefighting costs exceeded $146 million.

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