About FireSafe Montana

FireSafe Montana is a private, non-profit organization coordinating and supporting a statewide coalition of diverse interests working together to help Montanans make their homes, neighborhoods, and communities fire safe.

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Whitefish Area Fire Safe Council Holds ‘Firewise’ Communities Meeting


A meeting of recognized ‘firewise’ communities in the Whitefish area was held on August 28, 2014 by the Whitefish Area Fire Safe Council (WAFSC). The meeting took place in a private fire lookout at the top of Lion Mountain in Whitefish, owned by Bick and Bonnie Smith. The meeting was attended by approximately 20 people from various Whitefish ‘firewise’ communities, along with WAFSC ‘partners’ from DNRC, USFS, Whitefish Fire Department, and Flathead Economic Partners. Bick Smith is on the board of WAFSC.


Whitefish currently has five officially recognized ‘firewise’ communities, and is in the process of creating more in order to complete a ‘network’ of ‘firewise’ communities surrounding the city of Whitefish to help reduce the intensity of any wildfire, and to create safe ‘work places’ for firefighters in the event wildfire visits the community.


The ‘Firewise’ communities attending the meeting consisted of Suncrest, Wolf Tail Pines, Grouse Mountain Estates, Lion Mountain Estates, and Elkhorn. This year marks the tenth anniversary for Elkhorn’s participation as a recognized ‘firewise’ community. A representative from the community of Glacier Hills near Coram (which is in the process of becoming a ‘firewise’ community) also reported on activities within that community. Each community reported on their ‘firewise’ activities for the past year, and discussed plans for the future. (Please see photos of the meeting).

Monarch-Neihart and Georgetown Lake Hold Wildfire Awareness Events


Monarch-Neihart held an all-day ‘Wildfire Awareness’ event on Saturday, August 9, 2014 (please see photos above). Smokey Bear was in attendance to celebrate his 70th birthday. Keep up the good work Monarch-Neihart.

Georgetown Lake HOA held its ‘Wildfire Awareness’ Event on Sunday, August 10, 2014. FireSafe Montana Board member Rich Blaney spoke about beetle killed timber at the event. Nice job Georgetown Lake HOA.

Happy 70th Birthday Smokey Bear!!!

Today marks the 70th birthday of our good friend Smokey Bear.  This year’s theme is  “No candles please!”, which is excellent advice for any August day in Montana.  Smokey has been doing his part to prevent wildfires longer than most of us have been alive, and we salute his efforts on this special day.  We assume that ‘clean livin’ is responsible for Smokey’s dark shiny coat with hardly a grey hair in sight.  For more information about Smokey’s birthday, please click here.  For some little-known facts about Smokey, please click here.

Tim Egan Expresses Opinion About Fighting Wildfires in “Fools at the Fire”.

To view best selling author Tim Egan’s opinion piece that concludes the people who “hate” government most are also the loudest voices demanding government action to save their homes, click here.  For an excellent book about the fires of 1910 and the United States Forest Service, please see Egan, Tim (2009). The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire that Saved America, Boston. New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Sixty-fifth Anniversary of Mann Gulch Tragedy

Mann gulch fire memorialAugust 5 marks the sixty-fifth anniversary of the single largest loss of wildfire firefighters’ lives in Montana history. On the late afternoon of August 5, 1949, 13 people were killed by wildfire at Mann Gulch, located along the upper Missouri River near the Gates of the Mountains Wilderness in the Helena National Forest.

This is the first Mann Gulch Fire anniversary for which no eye witness remains alive to relate first-hand the details of what is now recognized as a ‘watershed’ event for the US Forest Service, and the wildfire-fighting community. Sadly, Robert ‘Bob’ Sallee, the last of three firefighters to narrowly survive the Mann Gulch fire, passed away on May 21, 2014 in Spokane, WA, at age 82. (For more information, please see www. nytimes.com/2014/06/01/us/robert-sallee-survivor-of-smoke-jumpers-is-dead-at-82.html?_r=0).

For those who study fire history, Mann Gulch is a remarkable case study involving considerable controversy, as well as significant “lessons learned”  1.

While, at one point, it may have been tempting to attribute the loss of life at Mann Gulch to a less sophisticated and technologically disadvantaged period of time in wildfire-fighting history, the South Canyon Fire (1994), (where 14 firefighters died), and most recently the Yarnell Hill Fire (2013), (where 19 highly trained ‘hot shots’ lost their lives) clearly shows this was wishful thinking.

We remember these losses, not only to honor the memories of those who died, and their families; but also as a stark reminder that fire-fighting is inherently dangerous and difficult work—even with the best equipment and most highly skilled firefighters available. These tragedies are sobering reminders that adherence to safety really does matter but, in some cases, this alone may not be enough to prevent a tragedy from occurring. The late Bob Sallee perhaps said it best at a gathering to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of Mann Gulch:

“Wildfires are and always will be dangerous, and we must respect their potential to put a firefighter in harm’s way. And life is precious; and for some very short.” 2.

In remembering the Mann Gulch tragedy, we invite our firefighting partners and friends to please ‘be safe’ this fire season.


1. The most complete description of events occurring at the Mann Gulch Fire is contained in Maclean, Norman (1992) Young Men and Fire, Chicago, Illinois: The University of Chicago Press. A fascinating description of Bob Sallee’s recollections when he revisited the scene at Mann Gulch is contained in Maclean, John N. (2003). The Last Survivor. Fire and Ashes, On The Front Lines of American Wildfire (pp. 175-191). New York, New York: Henry Hold and Company, LLC. See also, Rothermel, Richard C., Mann Gulch Fire: A Race That Couldn’t Be Won, (May, 1993) US Department of Agriculture, General Technical Report INT-299 at www.fireleadership.gov/toolbox/staffride/downloads/lsr14/Race_That_Couldnt_Be_Won.pdf.

2. Maclean, John N. (2003). The Last Survivor, Fire and Ashes, On The Front Lines Of American Wildfire, p. 191. New York, New York: Henry Hold and Company, LLC.