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Glacier National Park Wildland Fire Management

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blue bulletFire in Glacier National Park

blue bulletGlacier and Flathead National Forest fire page

blue bulletVideo Gallery of the 2003 fires

blue bulletPhoto Gallery of the 2003 fires

blue bulletA Fire Ecosystem

blue bulletWorking With Fire: a look at Fire Management

blue bulletPast Fires in Glacier National Park



Wildland Urban Interface
Glacier National Park has begun implementing fuel reduction projects around park structures. The focus of these projects is to decrease potential fire fuels in Wildland-Urban Interface areas. Wildland-Urban Interface areas exist all over the United States, anywhere where residential, business or recreational structures are located within or near wildland settings. In other words, anywhere buildings are intermingled with flammable natural vegetation.

Fire, a natural element in any forest or wildland, can threaten buildings when it moves out of wildland vegetation into a developed area. In the Wildland-Urban Interface, fuel for a fire changes from wildland timber or brush to trees near homes, landscaped plants and structures. Thick trees and brush can carry a wildland fire to a building, threatening lives and property. It is necessary to manage fuels between buildings and wildlands. Priority areas in Glacier National Park include Apgar Lake McDonald (Ranger Station and Lodge), Two Medicine, St. Mary, Rising Sun, and Many Glacier.

Fuel reduction in wildland-urban interface areas creates buffer zones that help control the amount of vegetation that could become fuel for a wildland fire. Fuel reduction between the park wildlands and developments (structures) inside the park can reduced the probability that a wildfire, if ignited, would burn uncontrolled or destroy the structure in these areas, reduce the risk posed by wildfire to people, property, and other resources. In addition, by reducing the volume of fuel, the intensity of a fire entering a treatment area can be reduced, which may increase firefighters' ability to defend a structure.
Wildland-Urban Interface areas exist all over the United States, and are growing. As a result of population growth, urban and suburban communities are spreading out further into Wildland-Urban Interface areas. In addition, increasing numbers of people are moving into forested areas. Data from recent census surveys show that of the fifteen fastest growing communities, nine are in wildland fire prone areas. Cooperative approaches involving federal and state agencies, local fire departments, homeowners and political leaders in Wildland-Urban Interface communities is essential.
Most homes destroyed by wildfire do not ignite by being overrun by walls of flames. More typically, fire burns along ground fuels-grass, leaves, and debris-and ignite homes built with combustible construction, such as wooden roofing and siding.

By creating buffer zones between an area of wildlands and structures, known as defensible space, fuel for a wildland fire is limited. This creates self-defense for a structure. Defensible space may make it possible for firefighters to safely protect a structure during a wildland fire. Landowners can help firefighters protect their structures and reduce their risks considerably by creating defensible space.

The National Wildland-Urban Interface Fire Program's Firewise Communities team recommends that Wildland-Urban Interface homeowners improve their "home ignition zone"-the house and surrounding area up to 200 feet.
Landscape and construction tips include:

· Cut back trees and brush and shrubs a minimum of 30 feet from your home to create a "Defensible Space"-an area free from fuels that may ignite your home.

· Use metal, Class-A asphalt roof shingles, clay tile, or slate roofing materials.

· Remove leaf clutter and pine needles from your roof, gutters, under your deck and around your home.

· Use construction materials that are fire-resistant or non-combustible, such as cement shingles, stucco, metal siding and brick.

· Remove branches that overhang your roof.

· Provide 15-foot clearance between your chimney and the nearest tree. Make sure your chimney extends 3 feet above your roof, and cover it with a spark arrestor.

· Prune lower branches of tress, and remove ladder fuels-plants of varying heights that carry a low intensity fire up into the crowns of trees.

· Provide wide and easy access to your home for emergency response vehicles and ensure the address is clearly marked.

· Periodically inspect your property and keep firewood away from your house.

Fuel reduction projects are designed to combat both the intensity and available fuel for fires. It has been demonstrated that when wildfires approach treated areas, rate of spread generally slows and they are usually much more easily controlled. While fuel reduction projects are an important part of fire management, there are also a number of inherent challenges. These projects are very labor intensive, with relatively high treatment costs. They require periodic maintenance treatments and are best supported by private landowner participation on neighboring properties. Fuel breaks alone are not enough to prevent wildfires, but will allow for more effective fire management and can be valuable in community protection efforts on the wildland urban interface.

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