Wildfires don’t understand property lines — it’s everyone’s responsibility to maintain the system.


Thanks to Smokey Bear, we all know that only YOU can prevent wildfires! Your Co-op agrees that wildfire prevention starts with YOU, member-owner of your electric cooperative, located in the midst of Montana’s many beautiful forests.

Wildfires are unplanned and usually unwanted fires that pose many dangers for the people, plants, and animals living nearby. In Montana, naturally caused wildfire is a part of life, just like avalanches. Some forest ecosystems even rely on natural wildfire for their health. However, human-caused wildfires may burn so hot that they can damage or even destroy a forest’s health – not to mention threaten lives and property.

All year, Co-op staff devote enormous amounts of resources to vegetation management. We strive to prevent trees from falling into power lines for many reasons. In the summer, a tree-caused outage can create dangerous conditions because water-filled trees are natural conductors of electricity, and untrammeled electricity can create fire.

How can YOU help? When you’re at your home or business, simply look up. Are there trees threatening nearby power lines? If so, call your Co-op! If the potentially dangerous trees are within our right-of-way, we’ll step in to help. If not, we will offer information on the best way to address your concerns.

Integrated Services Manager Amanda Opp noted, “As a community, we’ve pushed the boundaries of the wildland-urban interface, which means that our properties are exposed to more available fuels. It’s more important than ever to be wildfire-wise.”

Opp recently authored Flathead Electric Cooperative’s Wildfire Mitigation Plan. “We care so deeply about the safety of our communities, and the resiliency of our homes and buildings,” Opp stated. “That’s why we proactively developed a plan to prevent, or mitigate, wildfires. One part of that plan is defensible space.”

Creating defensible space around our homes and businesses can save lives and structures in the event of an out-of-control wildfire. “Defensible space isn’t a bare space,” counseled Vegetation Management Administrator Celesta Collacchi.

“Preventing wildfire doesn’t mean removing all of your trees, just as saving our forests doesn’t mean keeping all of your trees,” Collacchi continued. “Maintaining individual trees by properly spacing, trimming, thinning, or sometimes removing them is the right thing to do for the health of the forest and the community.”

“We’re all in this together,” General Manager Mark Johnson added. “In a not-for-profit, member–owned electric cooperative, it’s everyone’s responsibility to maintain the system. Wildfires don’t understand property lines, and so in that way, the forests belong to us collectively, and we have a stake in each other’s safety.”

Please help your Co-op prevent dangerous wildfires.

Courtney Stone

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