Montana county initiates new emergency information website
On September 10 we wrote on Wildfire Today, in part:
Making real time information about the fire’s location available, interpreting that data to decide what areas should evacuate and which areas are safe, then providing this data to the public in near-real-time is not a small task. But it could be argued that this should be the most important objective of fire managers, above and beyond the boiler-plate written into every Incident Action Plan of “provide for the safety of the public and firefighters”.
In that post we further explained how this could be done, using the Internet and various sources of information.
We don’t know if the Madison County Commissioners were aware of that post, but they recently….
….gave speedy and unanimous approval to develop a county sponsored “emergency information” web-site. The site (madison.homestead.com) was up and running the next day.
The new web-site will be maintained by the County Communications Department. The site is intended to allow county residents extremely fast (nearly instant) access to information related to significant county emergencies and urgent county related information.
The County Commissioners all agreed that since Madison County has no local television or radio stations, there is no reliable way to allow residents immediate access to developing or changing information. Particularly, information related to significant, long duration county emergencies – as evidenced during the Labor Day Hebgen Dam incident.
Even though early in the incident, designated Public Information Officers tried desperately to alert the media in Bozeman about the situation at Hebgen, the television coverage of the incident was weak at best.
During the Hebgen event, local residents were generally aware that there was an emergency of some sort, but had difficulty accessing timely and rapidly changing facts of the incident. Consequently, due to an information vacuum, the rumor mill took over – and many residents understandably reacted to inaccurate information.
From The Latest.
And they had the web site “up and running the next day”! Congratulations to the forward-thinking County Commissioners of Madison County, Montana!
Climate and fires
From the LA Times:
The biggest overall influence on global wildfire activity in the last 2,000 years has been climate, according to a new study that also shows humans have played a significant role in fire levels in recent centuries.
Researchers looked at charcoal levels in hundreds of corings of ancient lake sediments and peat from around the world.
What they found is that until about 1750, there was a long-term decline in burning, reflecting a global cooling trend. Then, as global settlement expanded and the Industrial Revolution took hold, wildfires increased, peaking around 1870. Farmers used fire to clear the land. Increased fossil-fuel use contributed to rising levels of carbon dioxide that sped plant growth and created more to burn. More people meant more fires started by humans.
But starting in the late 19th century, settlement had the opposite effect, particularly in western North America, the tropics and Asia.
Livestock ate the native grasses that had helped fuel frequent, low-intensity fires in the West. Wildlands were replaced by farms. During the 20th century, fire suppression became the norm in many parts of the world.
The result was an abrupt drop in fires, despite a warming climate.
The paper, “Climate and Human Influences on Global Biomass Burning over the Past Two Millennia,” was published online Sunday in the journal Nature Geoscience and was written by a nine-member team from the U.S., Europe and Great Britain.
It did not take into account recent decades, when wildfires in the U.S. have been on the rise.
Patrick Bartlein, a University of Oregon geography professor and one of the study authors, said climate is regaining the upper hand as the dominant force.
“All signs point to the idea that with continued global climate change … we’ll see more and bigger” fires.