Northwest Montana NRCG Zone Minutes

April 25, 2000

The spring meeting of the NW zone was held at FWP conference room in Kalispell at 0930. Persons in attendance included: Ted Mead, Chair and DNRC rep; Don Black, Flathead Forest Rep; Martha Smith, Sanders Co. Rep; Charley Comer, Lincoln Co. rep.; Neil Nelson, Prevention Committee rep; Charley Webster, Kootenai Forest rep; Fred Van Horn, Glacier Park rep; and Bill Caldwell, Business Committee rep.

Ted Mead reviewed notes from the NRCG Board meeting. Minutes are not yet ready but will be posted on the web soon.

Red Card/Technical Specialist issues: This topic resulted in lively discussion and concluded with the recognition that confusion still exists. NW zone will continue to implement the policy stated for the 1999 fire season. Martha Smith raised the concern that some of the local fire departments and boards of trustees may not understand or be complying with the physical fitness requirements established for local government forces. It was noted that NRCG does not establish physical fitness or work performance requirements for volunteer firefighters operating within their own jurisdiction, but that training and physical requirements must be adhered to when local govt. forces are hired to assist other cooperating NRCG agencies. Martha suggested this would be a good opportunity to send a preseason reminder letter to Boards of Trustees within the zone that outlines the rules we operate under and their responsibilities.

Action items: Charley Webster will draft the letter for review by the rest of the zone board members. Ted Mead will contact Alan Marble and Dick Giffin to confirm sending the letter to local govt. entities within their counties.

COOPERATOR REPORTS

Don Black, Flathead Forest: Don reported there are serious deficiencies in Flathead Forest budgets that will directly affect their initial attach capability. Indications are their forest fire fighter numbers will decline from 43 to 13 which will allow staffing of 3 engines rather than 9. Similar reductions are expected in other seasonal crews also which will limit their ability to provide support for extended attack. The Flathead HS crew will continue to be supported but may experience a slightly reduced season. A contract is out for bid on a high performance type 3 helicopter. The exact start date for the helicopter isn't known yet but will probably be later than normal for a shorter overall season. The ban on the use of Fire Trol retardant has been rescinded and the retardant base should be operating as usual.

Charlie Webster, Kootenai Forest: Charley reported that Kootenai Forest budgets were down too, but that reductions would be less severe than on the Flathead. Resources should be about 80% of normal. The Kootenai is also bidding for a high performance type 3 helicopter. The start date would probably be later than normal and the total season shorter than previously. Seasonal hiring for other programs on the forest is also significantly down from previous levels. On the brighter side, Dave Goens has told us the National Weather Service has reestablished fire weather and incident support as a basic NWS mission. We should again have incident meteorologists available to us. The Kootenai has burned about 3700 acres (prescribed) this spring and had 12 wildfires, which is less than normal, probably due to early green up. Four permanent fire positions are vacant on the forest. Guard school will be the week of June 14. Support for aerial detection may be difficult, we no longer have a plane in Libby, but do have a CWN ship in Bonners Ferry. The Kootenai will conduct readiness inspections on 6 units (including DNRC Libby Unit) the week of June 26th. Others from the zone are welcome to participate.

Charley Comer, Lincoln Co.: The Lincoln Co. plan is getting wrapped up and is about ready for signature. We will be putting on basic and intermediate fire fighter training sessions this spring as well as hazardous materials and meth lab training. The dry hydrant project has been completed with 15 being installed around the county. The poster/calendar project is popular with the schools and is continuing. Project Impact is continuing but will be completed this October. So far an emergency preparedness brochure has been developed and distributed to each household, and a video tape has been co-produced with the Lockwood FD with a copy for each fire department in the state regarding WUI fire prevention.

Ted Mead, DNRC: We have some new fire people on board, Greg Archie replaced Jeff Reistroffer and is the new Fire Supervisor at our Plains office. Wally Bennett, who recently retired from the Flathead, replaced Eric Kurtz and is the new fire program specialist at NWLO. DNRC's fire fighting resources will remain about the status quo. We have a new helicopter pilot, Mike Moore, and will again have 7 day coverage for the spotter plane. We've run short of detection platforms in the past and are trying to secure a second CWN ship. The zone Mobilization Board meeting is set for 0900, May 30 at Flathead SO. Primary task will be to finalize the draft Mob plan.

Action Item: Wally Bennett will contact Don Peterson, Libby contractor, to make sure he is aware of the meeting and has received a draft Mob plan.

Martha Smith, Sanders County; Dick Giffin, Lake County DES, will be retiring June 30. Martha attended Fire Wise, a fire prevention conference, the Montana attendees are continuing to meet to promote/raise level of awareness for prevention in Montana. The Sanders County prevention group held their first meeting of the year, attended by Lolo, Cabinet, DNRC, County and Tribal representatives, their goal is improved public education. She also noted green up seemed faster than normal.

Fred Van Horn, Glacier Park: Seasonal initial attack resources are the same as before, (3 lookouts, 3 firefighters, 3 engines) but training for non-fire seasonals is improving. There are now 4 professionals in the fire shop providing better depth than previously. Fire readiness inspections will be conducted July 11, others are welcome to attend.

Neil Nelson, Prevention Committee: 2000 prevention plan is completed. Neil noted that our news releases of seasonal prevention messages received mixed success. Many were not run and some papers never ran them. The committee suggests we use paid ads. instead. The Kootenai, DNRC and to a more limited extent, Flathead and Glacier agreed to cover the costs, within reason. Neil also presented 6 small graphics representing the seasonal advertisements for comments. He received some and is looking for any additional comments.

Neil is stepping down as Prevention committee chair for NWZ and has found a replacement, Jeff Stevenson of the Three Rivers District on the Kootenai has stepped up to the plate. The Zone sincerely appreciates your assistance Neil, you've brought us a long way. We also welcome Jeff to the fold and are pleased to appoint him as the interim chair and NWZ representative to the NRCG Prevention Committee. The NWZ prevention committee has the responsibility of selecting their actual chairperson.

Action Items:

1. Prevention committee chair will scope out the costs for each newspaper and inform the zone members so a definite plan can be made to pay for the program.

2. Martha also will check with BIA as they may help pay for Sanders Co. ads.

3. Prevention committee will inform the Zone Board of their selection for chairperson.

4. Flathead and Lake Counties need to select representatives for the Prevention Committee.

Business Committee, Bill Caldwell: The attached report from the NRCG Board meeting covers the important points. Of particular note, the IIBMH supplements are nearly completed and will be on the web shortly. Bill has a draft of Chapt. 20 supplement that has more accurate rates than last years supplement if some of you just can't wait for the final version.

Other Business

NWZ training academy catalog is on the web, you should be able to find links through the NRCG page or the DNRC / Fire page.

2005 protection exchange: Time is getting short to efficiently exchange protection of private lands with inadequate structure protection between DNRC and USFS. There is a real need to establish the criteria for private land protection acceptable to the Forest Service.

Action Item: Ted Mead, Martha Smith, Don Black and Charley Webster will try to setup a meeting between regional representatives and Tim Murphy to begin answering these questions.

Zone MAC groups: There is a need to identify zone MAC groups for NRCG. NWZ already has done this through the Zone support plan. In general, we feel the routine use of Zone MAC groups would only slow the ordering process and would be useful only in very unusual circumstances. However, Charley Webster noted, and others agreed the local MAC would be very useful for prepositioning resources when conditions warrant.