The Blackfoot Valley Dispatch is the only newspaper devoted to Lincoln, Montana and the upper Blackfoot Valley and has been the best source for local news from Lincoln, Ovando, Helmville and Canyon Creek since 1980. With a circulation of more than 650 in 37 towns across Montana and in 25 states, we reach an estimated 1500 readers each week. We are member of Montana Newspaper Association and are working hard to provide our readers with the best possible local news and advertising. We appreciate feedback, so let us know what you think and how we can improve.You can contact us at 406-362-4131 of by email at firstname.lastname@example.org Check our new ' Recent stories' page for selected stories from recent editions
July 20 Headlines
Shapes: BPSW unveils new entrance sculptures
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Lightning sparks Park Creek Fire: Firefighting strategy discussed at community meeting
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Lightning sparks Park Creek FireFirefighting strategy discussed at community meeting
Roger Dey Nearly 40 Lincoln area residents attended a public meeting at the community Hall Sunday night to hear the latest information on how the Forest Service planned to tackle the Park Creek Fire burning just north of town. Lincoln Ranger District and Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest officials, joined by members of representatives of partner agencies and members of the Type 2 Incident Management Team called in to help battle the blaze, provided a report on the situation and their strategy for dealing with the fire. Many Lincoln residents saw the fire flare up and grow dramatically following a lightning strike on a ridge below Stonewall Mountain just after 9 p.m. Friday, July 14. By Sunday night the fire, which is plainly visible from Lincoln, was estimated to be about 400 acres, but by Tuesday morning detailed mapping put the size at 1538 acres, and a road closure went into effect on Sucker Creek Road from the Forest Service Boundary north of Lincoln to the intersection with Copper Creek Road. Park Creek road is also closed from the intersection of Forest Road 1406 to the Forest Service Boundary. Jerod Russell, the local incident commander with the Lincoln Ranger District, said at Sunday’s meeting that they got a good look at the fire situation Saturday. The area is mostly dense timber and snags, he said, with conditions very similar to the 2015 Sucker Creek Fire that burned about 3000 acres just to the east of the current blaze. “It’s kind of inaccessible for equipment,” Russell said. “Based on some of those things we tried to kind of herd it into that Sucker Creek and Snow Talon Fire. Topography is going to help push it that way as well.” During the public meeting, Forest Supervisor Bill Avey explained that his intent for fighting the fire is to use contained suppression strategy that concentrates active suppression on the south end of the fire area to prevent it from spreading beyond National Forest lands. The plan calls for using the existing road network and additional fire lines to keep the fire boxed in and moving to the north and northeast, where it will eventually burn into the Sucker Creek and Snow Talon fire areas, where the lesser fuel load should “take the punch out of it.” Avey said that, as in 2015, the number of standing dead snags in the area makes it very dangerous for them to put firefighters on the ground to battle the blaze. “We’re working really hard to keep people safe,” he said and explained that they were in a good position to use feller bunchers to cut a line from Park Creek Road and hook into Sucker Creek Road. By keeping the fire contained and moving toward the old burns, rather than sending firefighters into dangerous areas and committing people and equipment to try to fully contain it, the strategy should keep resources free to deal with any new fire starts in the area. “What I don’t want to do is commit all our resources in here and not have any resources if we have a start that may present a much greater risk to residences and the community,” Avey said. Under the strategy, the fire likely will continue to burn at a low intensity in the old fire scars until a season ending event fully extinguishes it. “‘We’re gonna be living with this smoke for a long time, but the good news is its taking away that future risk,” he said. Both Avey and Russell pointed out that the fire has been burning in an area that is part of the Stonewall Vegetation project area. “One thing that’s pretty noteworthy as far as what it’s doing now is this whole fire area, from the ridge that separates Park Creek and Stonewall, was one of the prescribed fire units for our Stonewall project,” Russel said. The Stonewall Vegetation Project, a collaborative effort nearly a decade in the making to address insect infestation and dead trees to the north and northwest of Lincoln, was approved by Avey last August. A suit brought by the Alliance for Wild Rockies and Native Ecosystem’s Council in February led to an injunction against the project, upheld by U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen, which prevented the projects implementation. Although the fires is expected to continue burning to the northeast and slow in the old burn scars, Avey has also tasked Hutton’s Wildland Fire Management Team -the Type 2 Incident Management Team that took over Monday night - with developing a management plan that includes trigger points based on changes in the fire behavior and conditions. “As the fire begins to perform in different ways, both moving across the landscape and as we get differing conditions, we can bring resources in and be ahead of the curve,” Avey said. Avey and Lewis and Clark County Commissioner Susan Good Geise asked that people respect the road, trail and area closures. “If you go into some area that’s closed, and we become aware of it, then (Ranger) Michael (Stansberry) and myself and Sheriff Dutton have a responsibility to send some of our people to try to get you out, to try to find you,” Avey said. “When people take that on, you have to remember you’re also putting first responders at risk.” Sheriff Leo Dutton, who had just come from a community meeting in Wolf Creek, shared a bit of ‘harsh reality’ related to evacuations, although there are no such orders in effect for the Lincoln area. He explained that an evacuation order will go out over the reverse-911 system, and he will send deputies around to houses. “We’re only going there one time. You all are adults. We’re gonna tell you one time ‘it’s time to go,’” he said. “If you are not drunk and are capable of making rational decisions, you can say no, but don’t expect to see us again.” He added that such a choice applies to legal land owners who can make rational decisions, but not renters or to people who are intoxicated. Geise reminded everyone that much of Lewis and Clark County is on fire, with a loss of structures and vehicles in the Augusta area, and evacuations in the Wolf Creek area. “This is the kind of stuff we usually see in mid-august,” she said, and recommended people batten down the hatches and be ready for a bumpy ride. Plans call for additional community meetings to be announced when there are significant changes to either the fire situation or its management. Fire information boards are located in Lincoln at Hooper Park, the Blackfoot Valley Dispatch office and the Lincoln Post Office.
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