Community wildfire preparedness prevents a costly fire

Stand saved by fuel reduction
This stand of trees and the nearby structure survived a small wildfire because owners had removed ground-level fuels and trimmed low-hanging tree limbs. DNR photo.

Little did anyone know that a fuel reduction project would be put to the test so quickly after it was finished. In March of 2010, DNR completed the Pierre Lake Fuels Reduction Project in Stevens County with funding from a Bureau of Land Management National Fire Plan grant. Thinning and pruning of the trees was going to make it easier to suppress any wildfire that came through.

On May 6, 2012, an unattended debris fire escaped, threatening a home in the Sand Creek area of Stevens County.

Just a mile east of the fire, a new fire station had opened in 2011: Sand Creek Station #6, which had a unit on scene within minutes.

The fire was slowly creeping, and the winds were only about 1-2 miles per hour. There were no structures threatened, and it was about an acre in size. The fire stayed on the surface, which resulted in minimal scorching of the trees. This minimal scorch was thanks to the fuel reduction project. With the focus on thinning and pruning, the fire didn’t have a chance to crawl up the trees and start a crown fire. In crown fires, flames can rapidly jump from tree to tree. That could have been a catastrophe!

Fire Chief Herb Hipler with Joint Fire District Ferry #3 and Stevens District #8 credits the fuel reduction project from making it easier to suppress the fire and keeping it on the ground. Plus, the fire was stopped before it could damage any structures. Best of all, the landowners will not lose any of their trees thanks to their wise decision to reduce fuels like brush, grasses and low-handing tree limbs.

Fuel reduction treatments and fire readiness are a necessity in fire-prone communities throughout the state. Keep in mind what’s around your home, and be prepared for any wildfire that could come through. Go to to learn steps to protect your home and property from wildfire.

NOTE: Two of the vehicles used by the Joint Fire District Ferry 3 and Stevens 8 to respond to May 6 fire came from a U. S. Forest Service Volunteer Fire Assistance grant that is administered through DNR’s Fire District Assistance Program. Also, some of the hose, tools, and personal protective equipment used to suppress the fire were a part of this grant.