HELENA – The Montana Disaster and Emergency Services has awarded Lewis and Clark County a nearly $1 million grant to do fire mitigation work in the city of Helena over the next couple of years.
The grant will be broken up into two different phases, with the first being education efforts and fire-risk assessments and the second being mitigation work.
This grant and associated projects are part of a long-term effort to make Helena more fire safe. Mitigation activities will include vegetation and hazardous fuels removal to create defensible space and retrofits of combustible construction materials to ignition-resistant materials for properties deemed high to extreme risk.
“It’s much easier to spend and invest in prevention because the fire is less severe,” says Amy Teegarden, the Project Manager, Tri-County Fire Safe Working Group. “There’s less damage, there’s less property damage, it’s safer for firefighters to go in and fight the fires. There’s escape routes, there’s plans in place that make it more survivable.”
The focus area will be Southeast Helena, which is one of the most at-risk areas in the wildland urban interface, according to the county. It includes approximately 2,700 properties and multiple care facilities.
“Our project isn’t going to eliminate fires. It’s going to help Helena become more fire safe, so that when we do have another fire, and we will, we’re prepared and we’re more likely to have less damage,” says Teegarden.
Projects will also focus on individual properties as well as neighborhood mitigation improvements.