Open Letter From FireSafe Montana President, Tony Harwood

Hello Everyone,

I became President of the FireSafe Montana Executive Board in April of this year.  It has been an interesting eight months working with FSM members across the state on many community events and public awareness and communications activities.  With our annual fall meeting approaching, I would like to take this opportunity to visit about what FSM has accomplished this past fire season and what we, as members, may need to do in keeping FireSafe Montana moving forward.  Statewide FireSafe Councils, cooperative agency partners, and FireSafe Montana members continue to work diligently to help Montanans make their homes, neighborhoods, and communities ‘fire safe’.  FireSafe Montana co-sponsored several community events across the state that included spring season FireSafe Council ‘open houses’ in Libby, Whitefish, and Kalispell.  Other community events occurred in Polebridge, and in Bozeman, where Ray Prill and David Cook presented their FSM Ignition Zone Presentation.  Thanks to Ray and David for your efforts.

FireSafe Montana also collaborated on planning and funding a late June “1/3 Mile to Safety’ event in Helena.  Thanks to the many FSM members and local community champions for engaging and taking positive actions to reduce the potential loss of life and property from wildfire.  Funding from FSM is providing for a wildfire awareness ‘ad campaign’ produced by the Montana Broadcast Association.  These ads are very effective at raising public awareness of local wildland fire threats and issues.  A team of FSM members visited the Roaring Lion Fire area in Hamilton to view the tragic loss of homes and to assess damage to property and forest resources.  The Team conducted homeowner and fuel mitigation contractor video interviews to provide film clips for future public awareness activities.

Thanks to Byron Bonney and Christine Johnson for planning and conducting the fuel mitigation assessment and interviewing efforts.

The FSM website and many other methods of communications are very valuable to a distribution of public information materials.  We continue to distribute ‘FireWise’ Ignition Resistant Construction Guide’, One Less Spark Campaign, Living With Fire and other pamphlets, fliers, and brochures to get the word out on homeowner protection.  We received an unprecedented number of ‘hits’ to our website this summer and have initiated efforts to update the sites structure and content to meet increasing public interest.  Thanks to Christine Johnson and Mike Frost in their hard work in making the webs site a stronger tool for FSM communication and information dissemination.

The FSM Executive Board is considering many actions to achieve our organization’s mission, goals, and objectives for increasing the chances of Montana homes surviving a wildfire.  Our fall meeting will be held in Helena in early December.  The Executive Board has an aggressive agenda to discuss and make important decisions on several issues.  We would like to continue the Ad Campaign, but we need to determine strategies for focused messaging.  The FSM membership has been declining and we need to reinvigorate program interest with the help and engagement of all involved.  Organizational communications can be improved, and we need to talk about Executive Board meeting schedules, membership participation, and website issues.

What can we do to promote FireSafe Montana?  We need FireSafe Council volunteers and local community champions, and the engagement of membership to get the job done.  If you can plan on attending the meeting in Helena because we need your thoughts and ideas to discuss and build on the very important actions for FSM.  This meeting is a very important opportunity to help build the program and to keep moving forward.


Thanks for your considerations and please contact Executive Director Christine Johnson, members of the Executive Board, or myself with any questions or input.

FireSafe Montana



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