CPAW is now accepting applications for free wildfire planning assistance

Hopefully, fire season in Montana is beginning to burn out. Compared to the rest of the west, it almost feels like Montana got off easy. Almost.

This fire season, like every fire season before it, was scary. Coming dangerously close to communities and burning down homes, the sheer power of these fires leaves most of us feeling useless.

Several variables impact wildfires — wind, recent rainfall, geography, history — making it challenging to find a one-size-fits-all solution. Yes, there are certain precautions that help defend against wildfires in most situations, like defensible space. But each community needs its own, unique fire management plan.

To meet this need, Headwaters Economics and Wildfire Planning International created Community Planning Assistance for Wildfire (CPAW). Launched in 2015, CPAW aims to help communities actively mitigate their wildfire risk. Three Montana communities have already participated in CPAW, receiving localized information to help plan for and mitigate their wildfire risk: Missoula County, Lewis and Clark County, and Park County.

Communities throughout the country apply to participate in the CPAW program. CPAW works with selected participants for one year — free of charge — to evaluate current and future wildfire risks and establish a proactive, localized plan for mitigating those risks.

In 2018, no Montana communities are participating in the program.

In January, Prairie Populist published this article about CPAW and encouraged Montana communities to make it their New Year’s Resolution to ensure Montana counties make the CPAW cut in 2019.

So, did your community take the challenge?

The application process for CPAW is now open. Any community is eligible as long as they demonstrate they have support from the community’s planning and fire departments. The application process takes some thought, but the 11 questions are fairly straightforward.

With the October 5 application deadline looming, now is the time to finish that New Year’s Resolution. CPAW will announce which communities it has selected for 2019 by the end of November. And the people of those communities will feel a little less useless next fire season.

For more information about CPAW, visit its website.

UPDATE: We talked to Molly Mowery at Wildfire Planning International about any tips she may have for communities applying. She emphasized the importance of having planning and fire department support. She also mentioned it never hurts to have the support of an elected official! Good luck, Montana Communities!

-Andie Creel

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