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Category Archive: General Articles

Powerful ‘One-Third Mile To Safety’ Event held in Helena on June 18, 2016

IMG_4809                      Volunteers meet before reenactment of the ‘One-Third Mile To Safety’ event.

Volunteers met in Helena on June 18,2016 for reenactment of an event known as ‘One-Third Mile To Safety’, based on a true story of how wildfire changed the lives of one California family.

The ‘takeaways’ from the event were:

(1)  The importance of what is known as ‘situational awareness’ (i.e. knowing what’s going on with a fire at all times) cannot be overemphasized;

(2)  Evacuate early to avoid becoming ‘trapped’ by a wildfire and

(3)  Don’t wait to be told to evacuate if you feel at risk or in danger.

 

One-Third Mile to Safety: A Family’s Story

Learn to Plan for Emergency Situations and Evacuations

This story began in 2003 with a human-caused wildfire in southern California that burned more than 280,000 acres and 2,232 homes, but most importantly and tragically, led to the untimely death of a bright, young woman named Ashleigh Roach.  Ashleigh’s sister, Alyson Roach, survived the event but was severely burned.

On June 18, 2016, Helena residents learned how wildfire touched the lives of this California family through reenactment of an event known as “One-Third Mile to Safety: A Family’s Story” staff ride, which was conducted at the Neighborhood Assembly of God Church (725 Granite Ave.) in Helena.

The “One-Third Mile to Safety” event is based on a real life wildfire experience involving the Roach family, which lived one-third of a mile from their local volunteer fire department, yet not all of their family members were able to safely evacuate their home.  Sadly, Ashleigh Roach, age 16, was killed in the fire during the family’s evacuation.

Participants in the reenactment took a guided, 1/3-mile walk along Le Grande Cannon Blvd. and Silverette Street, stopping at several stations to hear the evacuation story from the perspective of the Roach family members. After the walk, Allyson Roach spoke to participants with her first-hand account of that day and advice on how people can prevent this from happening to their own families. Lewis & Clark County Sheriff Dutton also discussed local evacuation procedures, and volunteer firefighters and emergency coordinators discussed wildfire mitigation opportunities for homeowners.

“This was a very emotional day, full of powerful and inspirational messages,” said Sonny Stiger, Tri-County FireSafe Working Group representative and retired Forest Service Fire Behavior Analyst. “It was not meant to be a light-hearted experience but rather to be an experience that moves our Montana neighbors into taking action: to get prepared and ready for wildfire season, each and every year; and to evacuate if or when that call is made.”

FireSafe Montana, Tri-County FireSafe Working Group, Broadwater County, Jefferson County, Lewis and Clark County, Lewis & Clark Rural Fire Council, City of Helena, Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, State Department of Natural Resources and Conservation, and other partners co-hosted the “One-Third Mile to Safety” staff ride to help share the Roach Family’s tragic story in hopes that Montana residents will be prepared if/when wildfire is near their home(s).

“No one can be too prepared,” Lori Roach said in a letter to Ravalli County residents in 2010, when they participated in a similar staff ride. “And what our experience demonstrates is that you have to have a plan. You have to have a back-up plan. You have to have a third plan. You have to have an all-holes, unplugged, extraordinary circumstances plan. In fire situations, my advice is if an evacuation order is given, go. Drop everything, go.”

FireSafe Montana would like to thank all of those who participated in this reenactment; and to the Roach family in general, and Alyson Roach in particular, for their courage and inspiration in surviving a horrific experience and for their willingness to share this experience as a way of helping others understand and avoid wildfire risks.

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A DVD of another reenactment of the ‘One-Third Mile To Safety’ may be obtained by contacting FireSafe Montana.

 

Guy in Red Shirt

FSM Annual Meeting Set for April 6, 2016 in Polson, MT

FireSafe Montana’s annual meeting has been set for Wednesday, April 6, 2016 at the Red Lion Inn & Suites, 209 Ridgewater Drive, Polson, MT.  A block of rooms at a special FSM rate have been reserved, and those wishing to spend the night should contact the hotel directly at (406)872-2200.  This is a wonderful new hotel with exceptional ratings, situated in beautiful Polson, MT.  A complimentary welcome reception will be held the evening of April 5.

Please join us to learn about the most recent expert forecasts for the 2016 Montana wildfire season, as well as about what events and activities FireSafe Montana has scheduled to help reduce and manage wildfire risks in Montana.  We expect the meeting to be informative, useful, and fun.  For more information, please contact Christine Johnson at execdir@firesafemt.org.

“Fire On The Landscape” Lecture Series (June 10 & 11)To Be ‘live streamed’

A two day lecture series called “Fire On The Landscape” will be held in Helena at ‘Montana Wild’ on June 10 & 11 from 6:00-8:30 PM.  FireSafe Montana Chair, Pat McKelvey, in describing the series to the media said that “These are some top notch people coming in.”  Well known experts will speak on a variety of topics related to the effects that wildfires have on the landscape.  Speakers include:

(1)  Bruce Sims, a recently retired regional hydrologist and Regional Burned Area Emergency Response coordinator will speak about potential post-fire impacts on various landscapes, particularly watersheds.

(2)  Mark Finney, a research forester for the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory will talk about the science behind fire behavior and its effects on various landscapes.

(3)  Jack Cohen is a research physical scientist for the Missoula Fire Sciences Laboratory will speak about the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), and how homes ignite during large wildfires.

(4)  Dana Hicks, Fire Management Specialist at British Columbia Public Service will talk about the impact that the mountain pine beetle infestation has had on wildfires in Canada.

(5)  Brett Lacey, Fire Marshal for Colorado Springs, Colorado will speak about communities at risk and his experience with evacuations during the Waldo Canyon fire in 2012 and the Black Forest Fire in 2013.

Please Note:  This is an amazing group of well recognized fire experts talking about a wide variety of topics of great interest to fire fighting professionals, and WUI home owners, alike.  It is well worth taking in this lecture series.

For those who are unable to attend the lectures in person, they will be live-streamed at helenair.com.

April 2015 Montana Moisture Level Report/Maps Released

An interesting report and map of moisture levels in each Montana county for April 2015 is now available at http://drought.mt.gov.

Remembering The ‘Granite Mountain 19’

City of Arizona Hot Shots

Photo by Wade Ward/Prescott Firefighter

June 30th marks the three year anniversary of what is perhaps the most tragic single loss of firefighters in US history, when 19 of 20 ‘Granite Mountain Hotshots’ were killed at Yarnell Hill, Arizona.

We invite everyone to consider taking some time today for a ‘moment of silence’ to remember these firefighters, and their families.  This terrible tragedy puts what we’re all doing into proper perspective, and reinforces our unshakeable commitment to do everything humanely possible to see that something like this doesn’t happen in Montana.

This is also a good day to express our thanks to the firefighting community for everything firefighters do to protect our communities.  Thank you all, and please stay safe!

For an excellent new book about this tragic event, please see The Fire Line by Fernanda Santos, Flatiron Books (2016)

– Mike Frost, FireSafe MT Board Member and Whitefish Area FireSafe Council.