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County official gives fire wrap up

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POLSON – Steve Stanley gave an update on the fire season and also talked about some up-and-coming things in an address to the Lake County Pachyderm Club last week.

Stanley, the county’s emergency management director, said 1,147 acres burned in the county this summer, the largest of which was the 630-acre Upper Midway Fire near Ravalli. 

“We’re so blessed here because of tribal fire management,” Stanley said. “There are a lot of things that aren’t going to work well between the tribe and the county, but fire management is not one of them.”

He noted that 13,800 acres burned on the Flathead Indian Reservation, including the 28,689-acre Liberty Fire. As of Sept. 20, a total of 22 personnel were assigned to the fire, which was being managed by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes and Department of Natural Resources and Conservation. 

Stanley spoke about the need for fuel reduction and better forest management, namely allowing more logging. 

“If we don’t manage the forest, if we don’t do fuel reduction, Mother Nature will,” he said, adding that fuel reduction programs the county did previously with individual homeowners need to be redone. 

“The fuel load is stacked 8-10 feet high” on the face of the Mission Mountains, he said. “It will take your breath away” if it catches fire. “It will be an impressive, impressive fire. The tribe will let it burn.”

Stanley, who has been in his position since 2000 but was the deputy coordinator for 18 years before that, said the U.S. Forest Service “does a terrible job right now, but your problem isn’t with the Forest Service, it’s with the courts.”

“The Forest Service is directed from D.C. and don’t have a flipping clue what goes on in the West,” he said. “We really need a mindset change from the federal level.” 

“The environmentalists have infiltrated the Forest Service,” said former smokejumper Larry Ashcraft. Stanley agreed. 

“I think the Lolo (Peak) Fire is going to be a legal quagmire for years, and to be honest, it probably should be,” Stanley said, referring to the way the 53,902-acre fire southwest of Lolo was managed. As of Saturday, it was 90 percent contained and 220 personnel were on scene. 

CAD system coming

Stanley said the county will be implementing a computer-aided dispatch, or CAD, system later this year. 

Training should begin in November with plans for implementation by late November or early December, he said. 

“It’s a whole new world for us ... a challenge,” he said, adding that CAD is a “much better tool to work with.” 

The system from Application Data Systems Inc. will enable law enforcement to run driver’s license and other checks from their vehicles, Stanley said. 

CAD allows calls to be dispatched within 45 seconds or less, according to ADSI’s website. 

The county will be spending $48,000 a year to lease the CAD system, he said, noting that purchasing a new system would cost $550,000. 

In addition, the county should be able to start sending “push” notifications to smartphones next year, he said. 

Stanley added that the dispatch center, which is located on the second floor of the courthouse with a staff of 12-15, now has a generator that will run the whole courthouse in case of a power outage. 

“The (county) commissioners have been extremely supportive,” he said. 

For personal safety and survival, he recommended that one have a 72-hour “go bag” available at a moment’s notice. Such a bag should include: non-perishable or freeze-dried food, clothing, the ability to start fires and medication. 

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