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Big Sky Fire Department chips away at hazardous fuels

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The dead tree felled on David McCune's property as part of the BSFD Hazardous Fuels Chipping Day will serve as his firewood for the next year. PHOTO BY GABRIELLE GASSER

By Gabrielle Gasser EBS STAFF

BIG SKY – On a hot June day, the shout, “tree going down!” rang out as a large dead tree was felled by a firefighter with Big Sky Fire Department. The single downed tree is part of a larger effort by the department to help Big Sky homeowners prepare their properties for the wildland fire season.

June 21 and 22 marked the first two of six Hazardous Fuels Chipping Days, an effort by BSFD to encourage homeowners to clear fuels out of defensible spaces around their homes. The next two Chipping Days are planned for July 26 and 27 with two more days to be determined in August.

Firefighter and paramedic with BSFD Travis DuBois explained the importance of the Chipping Days to the community.

“These Chipping Days are important because it’s a good opportunity for the community to be proactive in making this a safer place during wildland fire season and also it’s good for forest health, but most importantly it makes it safer for all the community members and the firefighters,” he said. “When there’s wildland fires this makes it safer for everybody, and it’s a good opportunity for us to get out and interact with the community and we can do some training while we’re at it.”

On the 21 when Explore Big Sky caught up with the firefighters, they were cutting down a tree on David McCune’s property in the River Run Meadow neighborhood. McCune currently serves as the president of the River Run Meadow Homeowners Association and he expressed his excitement for the Chipping Days.

McCune said BSFD contacted River Run Meadow HOA last year about a Chipping Day, which was unfortunately postponed due to COVID-19.

“When Deputy [Fire] Chief Tetrault reached out to me this year I was like ‘absolutely we want to take part’ and it all fell together with this year being so dry and Big Sky booming, it really does fall on the homeowner to do everything you can to make your spaces as defensible for fire as possible,” McCune said.

McCune explained how the Chipping Days make wildland fire preparation easy on the homeowner since they just have to create a pile of limbs and other detritus that BSFD then comes in to chip. The resulting mulch can be used by homeowners and the tree that was cut down will serve as McCune’s firewood for the next year.

“These guys are always willing to help the community not only risking their lives when there are fires and things like that, but coming in and making sure that we can prevent stuff which is why we were so excited,” McCune said.

For McCune, it all comes back to his family’s philosophy of leaving the land better than you found it.

“These trees will outlive us, they’re going to outlast all of us,” he concluded. “But, if we do this and we take care of the land, the next people who come through get to appreciate it, or at least enjoy it, probably more than we do.”

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