After two intense years of wildland fires in Sanders County, and with 2018 shaping up to have a possible repeat, authorities have become proactive with getting information out to residents through a new Facebook page.
The Sanders County Wildland Fire Information Facebook page was launched a few weeks ago. The page encompasses updated information from multiple departments to ensure residents in Sanders County are aware of what fires and regulations are in happening.
At the present time, though there are several agencies involved in the updates of the page, John Hamilton and Martha-Jo Smith of the U.S. Forest Service Plains office are acting as administrators.
“This page took months of planning and meetings with other agencies to make sure we could get information to people in a timely manner. We wanted to also ensure that residents were getting the correct information first hand,” said Hamilton.
“We have a number of collaborating agencies involved that include Sanders County Commissioners, Sanders County sheriff, fire departments within Sanders County, Sanders County Office of Emergency Management, the Conferderated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (Bureau of Indian Affairs), Department of Natural Resources, Forest Service, Lolo Forest, Plains and Thompson Falls District, and Kootenai Forest and Cabinet District,” echoed Smith.
As of this week, the page has accumulated 630 “likes” and has 733 people actively following the page.
Speaking with Sanders County Sheriff Tom Rummel on last year’s fires, he said the page was an important tool for the county.
“When we have those big fires like we saw with Copper Creek and Sheep Gap. We know people are anxious to know what’s going on. However, we (the sheriff’s office) not only have calls coming into despatch for fire relays, but we still have the regular calls coming through which puts a strain on the system,” explained Rummel.
He said that having this new social media page will go a long way to helping residents understand what is happening when there is a fire, and what protocols or requests from agencies are in place that may apply.
“This page really helps our agencies stay focused on the task at hand, and by also getting the right information to people in an effective and timely manner,” added Rummel.
“We (all agencies involved) wanted to be proactive and learn from past years to how we could better inform the public on important fire news, especially during fire season. It’s important that we look forward to enhance and build on what our local news media do already,” said Smith.
Both Smith and Hamilton said that as the page grows, they hope in the future to add more important information for people to be aware of, such as firefighter terminology.
“For example, terminologies such as the Red Flag Warning that was issued by the National Weather Service last week. People that follow the National Weather Service website can see this on the map and we often get questions about it,” Smith said.
“The Red Flag War-ning was primarily issued for firefighting and land management agencies letting them know that the conditions are ripe for wildland fire combustion and rapid fire spread.
“The public should see this as a ‘heads up,’ using caution like making sure trailer chains are secure and not dragging on the road, not flicking cigerattes outside, not dumping used charcoal briquettes on the ground, etcetera.”
As the social media page continues to grow, agencies involved hope that all residents within the county take advantage to follow and engage in the Facebook page in a positive manner.
Hoping to not have repeats of past year’s with misinformation, the new Sanders County Wildland Fire Information Facebook page is truly aiming to keep everyone up-to-date and informed on current fires so everyone can stay safe.
“This page has so many positives to the community and also the firefighters working these fires,” said Smith.
To easily find the page, you can access the page handle by typing @scwildlandfireMT in the search bar of your Facebook page.