Fire safety for the community

Big Sky Rotary and Fire Department team up

Experts are saying it will happen: Big Sky will face fire, and not just on the outskirts of the community. Big Sky ranks at 97% higher risk for wildland fire than anywhere else in the nation and 84% higher than anywhere else in the state, according to a recent study created in partnership with Headwater Economics and the U.S. Forest Service through the Community Planning Assistance for Wildfire program. The data comes from Wildfire Risk to Communities, a project through the forest service that is under the direction of Congress.

Big Sky Fire Department (BSFD) is setting out to educate homeowners in particularly high risk areas with the help of Big Sky Rotary by going door-to-door with flyers and information on May 1.

Last year saw increased pressure on the west from wildland fires – Inciweb showed a western U.S. besieged. Lightning sparked the Lone Star fire in Yellowstone National Park, which resulted in periodic road closures. After the lightning-caused Bridger Foothills Fire last fall caused the evacuation of Bridger Canyon, injuries to some firemen and destruction of some property, much of the area was on edge. Then-Gallatin County Sheriff Brian Gootkin said it was a miracle no lives were lost considering the high, shifting winds. In a subsequent interview, BSFD Fire Chief Greg Megaard urged residents and visitors of Big Sky to be extra vigilant.

In early November, the Porcupine Wildland Fire occurred in Big Sky right across from the school on Highway 191, causing a short highway closure and pre evacuation orders for some canyon residences and businesses. Still under investigation, the approximate 650 acre fire occurred the same day that a controlled burn for aspen restoration was taking place a mile away.

“Wildfire seasons across the state have become longer, drier and more destructive as we continue to build homes into the wildland urban interface. It’s not a matter of if, it’s a matter of when for Big Sky,” said BSFD Deputy Fire Chief Dustin Tetrault.

In the past, Tetrault had educated rotary members on wildfire preparedness and best practices. This year, the rotary reached out asking how they could help.

Rotary President Laura Seyfang credits Mel Crichton, head of the rotary service committee for coming up with the idea.

“Our illustrious optometrist Dr. Erica Perlman is the rotary boots-on-the-ground-person while Mel is out of town,” she said.

Occurring in conjunction with the National Wildland Fire Preparedness Day, they are targeting high risk areas, areas for home risk assessment and also those that might benefit from the community chipping program, Tetrault explained.

It is important for area residents to enroll in the Community Notification System that allows for officials in Gallatin County to provide urgent information. More information can be found at

He also said it is essential for people to have an evacuation plan in place “even for your house and your family.”

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