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					 Reducing the Community Risk of Wildland-Urban Interface Fires – A Public Entity Risk Institute Symposium

                          Looking for Local Solutions
                   to the Wildland-Urban Interface Problem
                                      By G. Scott Waldron
                                  Frenchtown Rural Fire District
                                       Frenchtown, Mont.

        The Frenchtown Rural Fire District provides emergency services to a number of
communities in Missoula and Mineral Counties of western Montana. Emergency response
is provided from eight stations with 5 paid staff and 70 volunteer personnel. This area
includes approximately 200 square miles of wildland urban interface.

        In 2001 the Frenchtown Fire District applied for and received grant funding to
perform fuel reduction work. Without the grant funding, the District lacks the financial
ability and staffing to perform this much-needed work. The District recognizes our
responsibility to utilize this funding effectively, and work was started as soon as funding
was confirmed.

        Exhibit 1 of this paper reviews the project mission, goals and objectives, and
outlines how the funding is being used. To date, we are on target to meet or exceed all of
the goals and objectives originally identified. These goals are not only identified as short-
term desires, but also as part of long-term commitment to future planning so the problems are
managed at the development and construction stage. New subdivisions will be designed
with fire and safety as a priority.

         This project has been an excellent experience and the most productive effort
in this area. Our partnerships with the U.S. Forest Service Nine Mile Ranger District,
Montana Department of Natural Resources, and Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribe have
been extremely productive. Jointly, we have completed assessments on nearly 600 homes,
fuel reduction work on 82 homes, and on 2.6 miles of access roads. Currently, work is
continuing on homes, and jointly we are beginning cross-boundary fuel reduction that is
beneficial to all parties. In addition, we are working with the local electric company to do
collaborative work along roadways that serve as power line access to subdivisions and
residential areas.

        Homeowners, both individually and as groups, are recognizing and assuming their
responsibility as part of this team effort. Shake roofs are being removed and timber is
being thinned in residential areas. This project is truly changing the culture in this area!

       Homeowners are taking their responsibilities seriously and making significant
changes. In the areas where we have performed work, peer pressure is taking effect and
groups of homes are being improved.

        The National Fire Plan has provided funding for projects such as these and I

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    Reducing the Community Risk of Wildland-Urban Interface Fires – A Public Entity Risk Institute Symposium

believe that prevention is a much better investment than suppression. There is some
concern that use of public funds for fuel reduction work is inappropriate; however, I
think it is appropriate and necessary for firefighter and public safety. Exhibit 2 outlines an
example of how funds are spent in suppression action vs. prevention work.

        The wildland interface involves a complex mixture of risks that cannot be resolved
by a single action or approach. A comprehensive approach that involves planning, ordinances
and permitting, with a consolidated suppression action, is the best approach to managing the
hazards that exist in this ecosystem.

Exhibit 1. Frenchtown Rural Fire District, Firewise Communities Project

                                        Mission Statement
Provide for the safety of firefighters and homeowners by working cooperatively with our
public and private partners to educate the public about fire hazards; homeowner
responsibility; removing of hazards fuels around homes; improving access and egress
routes; mapping and assessing homes in the WUI and creating a sustainable Firewise
Communities program for the future.


Create a Firewise community by:

     Reducing the potential for loss of structures and the environment to catastrophic wildland
     Improving survivability of homes in the Frenchtown Fire District wildland urban
     Educating the public on fire risks around their homes and their responsibilities as
     Completing the Fire Safety Permit and adopting it in the District
     Improving access and egress routes into WUI subdivisions
     Completing assessment maps


  Complete assessments on all homes in the forested interface
  Working in partnership with homeowners, complete fuel modifications on 100 homes
 Identify all water supply locations on maps of the District
 Remove wood shakes from 50% of homes in District
 Remove brush along all interface roadways to minimum 10’ off road
 Work with USFS and DNRC to reduce hazard fuels across boundaries
 Create Memorandum of Understanding with property owners to provide secondary
emergency egress for Elk Meadows subdivision

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 Reducing the Community Risk of Wildland-Urban Interface Fires – A Public Entity Risk Institute Symposium

                                        Implementation Phase

1) Priority Areas
   a) Homes with High Probability of ignition in a fire
   b) Homes with Moderate Probability of ignition in a fire
   c) Homes with residents who, by virtue of age or physical condition, cannot do
      mitigation work themselves
   d) Access and egress roadways

2) Create property owner agreement that:
   a) Identifies work to be completed
   b) Creates cost sharing for homeowner
   c) Identifies District responsibilities
   d) Identifies Homeowner responsibilities

3) Message we want to deliver
   a) This is a partnership between fire agencies and homeowners
   b) Requires homeowner participation and financial commitment
   c) Creating survivable homes and environment

4) Advertise program through newspapers and media
   a) Clark Fork Wagon Wheel
   b) Locate information signs on access roads
   c) School newsletters
   d) News releases, print, television, radio

5) Utilize USFS, MT DNRC, and Frenchtown prevention personnel to make homeowner
   a) Continued assessments
   b) Follow up contacts
   c) Requests for mitigation work

6) Management
   a) Firewise project coordinator
      i) Crew leaders
      ii) Create position descriptions/expectations for crew personnel

7) Project Time Line
   a) June 11 th Board Review and Approval
   b) June 12 th advertising and news releases
   c) June 12 th Initiate crew hiring
   d) June 14 –15-18 Crew Training: Safety, Purpose, Conduct, Chain Saw Training
   e) June 19 th begin mitigation work
   f) October 1 hold 2001 project review

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    Reducing the Community Risk of Wildland-Urban Interface Fires – A Public Entity Risk Institute Symposium

Exhibit 2. Prevention costs vs. Suppression costs

     Suppression --

Sawmill Gulch Fire, Frenchtown Fire District
July 14, 2001-July 16, 2001
13 acres
Suppression Costs: Estimated $ 70, 000.00

 Prevention --
Prevention Crews
June 26, 2001-August 30, 2001
100 Homes Survivable/Defensible Space
Prevention Costs: $ 30, 000.00

Discussion Questions

          Here are some questions to consider for discussion in the Symposium forum:

     Do you have an established timeline for meeting the goals and objectives of the
      community mitigation and prevention plan?
     Does your community have an adequate permitting process so that growth and
      development can help rather than hinder the local firesafe goals?
     Are local elected officials well enough educated in fire protection to be motivated to
      provide the necessary resources and support for the plan?

About the Author

Waldron has been in the fire service for 15 years, and has served as the Chief of the
Frenchtown Fire District in Missoula County, Montana since 1991. The District is a
combination emergency services organization, providing structural and wildland fire
suppression, hazardous materials response, and ALS ambulance service. The District
covers 250 square miles. Waldron has served as the chair of the Missoula County Fire
Protection Association and as a member of the Montana State University Fire Services
Training School Advisory Council; he is also an instructor at the school.


About the Symposium

Reducing the Community Risk of Wildland-Urban Interface Fires is presented as a public service of
the Public Entity Risk Institute (PERI), 11350 Random Hills Rd., Ste. 210, Fairfax, VA 22030.
Phone (703) 352-1846. Gerard J. Hoetmer, Executive Director.

For copies of all the papers presented during this and previous Symposium programs, visit PERI's
Web site at www.riskinstitute.org or the Risk Management Resource Center at

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 Reducing the Community Risk of Wildland-Urban Interface Fires – A Public Entity Risk Institute Symposium

The Public Entity Risk Institute provides these materials "as is," for educational and informational
purposes only, and without representation, guarantee or warranty of any kind, express or implied,
including any warranty relating to the accuracy, reliability, completeness, currency or usefulness of
the content of this material. Publication and distribution of this material is not an endorsement by
PERI, its officers, directors or employees of any opinions, conclusions or recommendations
contained herein. PERI will not be liable for any claims for damages of any kind based upon errors,
omissions or other inaccuracies in the information or material contained here.


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