January 30, 2020
Helena – Lewis and Clark County, in cooperation with Tri-County FireSafe Working Group, has been awarded $986,809 in FEMA grant money from Montana Disaster and Emergency Services to do fire mitigation work in the City of Helena over the next several years. The grant will require a $329,125 local match. Phase I of the grant award consideration will go before the Board of County Commissioners on February 4 for approval.
The grant and associated projects are part of a long-term effort to make Helena more fire safe. The focus area will be southeast Helena, one of the most at-risk areas in the wildland urban interface. It includes approximately 2700 properties and multiple critical care facilities.
The mitigation projects will be a community effort, managed by Tri-County Firesafe Working Group and involve City of Helena partners, including the Helena Fire Department. There will be two phases.
Phase I will include outreach and education efforts and fire-risk assessments of structures and properties. Phase II will be the mitigation implementation identified in Phase I. Mitigation activities will include vegetation and hazardous fuels removal to create defensible space and retrofits of combustible construction materials to ignition-resistant materials for properties deemed high to extreme risk.
Risks include highly flammable construction such as wood roofs and wood siding, flammable and heavy vegetation next to structures and along evacuation routes, potential for rapid fire spread from structure to structure and the likelihood for a rapid evacuation. Projects will focus on individual properties as well as neighborhood mitigation improvements.
“The conditions and proximity of the forests surrounding Helena are such that a forest fire poses a very real danger to parts of Helena,” said Ken Wood, Helena Fire Chief. “This grant is another step in the right direction as we continue to work to mitigate the risks, work with property owners and educate the public on making Helena more resilient to wildfire.”
Future public meetings and opportunities to learn more about the project will be announced soon.