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News & Announcements

April 18, 2008: Board of Trustees Position Filled by Acclamation

February 15, 2008: GRR Search/Rescue Welcomes Chief Ross Johnson

***Notice to Gallatin River Ranch Rural Fire District Members - 1/9/2008***

How To Protect Your House From Wildfire

Civilian Response Requirements

Incident Report: August 21, 2007 Fire

April 18, 2008: Board of Trustees Position Filled by Acclamation

The Gallatin County Election Office notified the Board of Trustees on April 14, 2008 that the two positions on the board that were opening due to the end of the terms of Ken Vidar and Tom Langel have been filled by Ken and Tom by acclamation, as no one else filed for candidacy.  Their new terms run from May 2008 to May 2011.

February 15, 2008: GRR Search/Rescue Welcomes Chief Ross Johnson

The Gallatin River Ranch Search/Rescue team is pleased to welcome Ross Johnson, who arrived at the Ranch on February 15,  as chief of the department.  Chief Johnson hails from Maryville, MO, and comes to us with a distinguished record of training and accomplishment.  His twenty-six years of experience has resulted in certification and training in many relevant areas of fire and medical response, and he has a sterling track record of instructorship, strategic planning, and team leadership and management.  The board of trustees and the department all look forward to a long and mutually satisfying relationship with our new chief.  Welcome, Chief Johnson! For a synopsis of Chief Johnson's credentials, click here.


An Election of two (2) trustees for the Gallatin River Ranch Rural Fire District Board of Trustees will be held on May 6, 2008.  Petitions for nomination for the election are available at the Gallatin County Election Department, Gallatin County Courthouse, 311 W. Main St., Room 103, Bozeman, MT.  They must be filed with the County Election Department no later than 5:00pm on February 21, 2008.

The current Board suggests that interested candidates provide a short biography-- showing relevant experience and reasons for interest--to allow the Ranch community the opportunity to make an educated decision.  Please send to elections@grrrfd.org; they will be posted at the fire district Web site (http://www.grrrfd.org) for examination by the voters.

Please note that if there are more than two candidates for the available slots, the election will be held under county auspices.  If only two candidates file, they will be appointed by acclamation.  If only one candidate files, that person will be appointed by acclamation, and the county then has the right to fill the remaining slot with a person of their choosing, who may not necessarily be a member of our community.  If no one files, then the county has the right to fill both slots with their appointees.

How To Protect Your House From Wildfire

A recent item -- published at the wired.com site -- provides some excellent information you should review. Entitled "Protect Your House and Family in Case of a Wildfire", this material is well worth your taking the time to read.  We hope that you will see fit to implement as many of the suggestions made therein as practicable.

Civilian Response Requirements

To: All GRR Property Owners

Fr: Nels D. Sanddal, Interim Chief, GRR Rural Fire and Rescue

Re: Response to Fire Scenes

August 23, 2007

The August 21 fire on Nixon Gulch underscores the need to reiterate expected behavior of everyone at the scene of a fire. We were very fortunate during the recent fire in three respects:

  1. The topography and wind conditions helped contain what could have been, under different circumstances, a very hazardous fire. Essentially, the fire quickly burned up the ridge and then the wind slowed the spread by pushing it back onto the already burned area.
  1. Mr. Gates, as incident commander (IC), was insightful enough to call for additional resources immediately and persistently. The response of those resources helped confine the fire dramatically.

While each of you who responded and assisted with the fire have reason to feel good about your contributions to the fire’s quick containment, an objective assessment provides a more somber view of the harm that each of you subjected yourselves to or inadvertently caused others.

  1. Fire behavior is unpredictable, particularly in dry, steep and windy conditions. Had the wind direction shifted, the position at the top of the ridge could have been immediately overrun by fire. As those of you who watched the fire run up the central draw will remember, it moves very quickly.
  1. The terrain was very rocky and steep. A fall with even a minor injury such as a sprained ankle could have been catastrophic, as it would have required a halt of fire containment efforts to mount a rescue operation.  Another scenario has someone falling (due to that same sprain) and no one knowing that they were even on-scene.  Fire could easily rush over them, and no one would know.  Official volunteers all have radios that are used for constant communication.
  1. The inappropriate staging and/or utilization of resources places fire personnel at risk. As an example, the second hose on one of our vehicles was uncoiled and used by well-meaning civilians without the crew being notified, which caused the water reserve in that truck to be depleted approximately 70% sooner than anticipated.  This placed the fire crew on the line to be caught in an indefensible retreat.  Further, other water resources were out of position to best meet the needs of GRR and County Fire personnel.
  1. The fire department is currently negotiating with owners of various resources and pieces of equipment that might be used at a fire location, e.g., water resources, graders, etc., to ensure that: a) we can access that equipment as needed and; b) that such equipment will be staged and operated under the aegis of the I.C.
  1. Embers and blowing flame create a risk of clothing ignition. If those of you who worked close to the fire inspect your clothing, you will probably find multiple microscopic burn holes. It only takes a slightly different set of circumstances for those to ignite fully, causing significant full-body burns. Official volunteers have fire-retardant turn-out gear to protect them.
  1. Air quality can be an issue in any fire. In addition to the smoke, even natural materials can produce toxic fumes as they burn.  Volunteer Fire Personnel have appropriate equipment to allow them to breathe under such conditions, and the training to use it.
  1. Traffic congestion became an issue for some responding County units. Stay clear of all roads that may be necessary for either access to or egress from the scene. A blocked road could mean the difference between getting the right apparatus to YOUR home in a timely manner.
  1. There was no way of knowing who was at the fire scene or to communicate with them. This caused delays in some water drops from the DNRC helicopters as civilian personnel first had to be cleared from various locations.

What You Can Do to Help

In any emergency situation your first obligation is to call 9-1-1, describe the location (include not only road location but a statement that it is on the Gallatin River Ranch so that an appropriate page is made) and the type of incident, i.e., wildland fire, house on fire, etc.

As was noted in Mr. Hobish’s e-mail of July 25, 2007, the best thing to do is to return to your home, prepare your existing water resources to wet down the property immediately surrounding your home, and be available to receive any evacuation orders.

In summary, NO HOME OR PROPERTY, is worth the loss of life of yourself, a family member or a neighbor. If you want to help, there are many things you can do.

  1. Join the department in any number of capacities. This means undergoing training and an ongoing commitment, not just showing up when there is an event. There are many things that you can help with in an official capacity, even if you are physically unable to respond to a fire or emergency. Within the next few weeks (following confirmation of pending support at the homeowner’s meeting for a paid Chief), we will be actively recruiting members and will provide a list of ancillary duties that we need your assistance with.
  1. Support the department generally, and recognize and acknowledge your neighbors and friends who have made the commitment.
  1. Be fire wise. Guard against wild land and structure fires. Informational materials are available at the Department, and may be borrowed upon request.
  1. Be careful. Although the cause of the two summer fires have not been absolutely determined, it is highly likely that, in both instances, they were human-caused. Be vigilant in your own behavior, and, where possible, watch the behavior of visitors and contractors.

 What you MUST Do to Help:

 If you happen upon a Ranch fire, dial 9-1-1, report its location as explicitly as you can, particularly stating that it is on the Gallatin River Ranch.  Then stay out of harm’s way.

 Do not begin working the fire unless you receive a specific assignment from the I.C. If you don’t  know who the I.C. is or where to find that person, then you have no business attempting to “help”.  Fire scenes must be dealt with in an orderly manner for both effectiveness and safety.  By law, the I.C. is the person who “runs” the scene, and is in complete command of all activities.  Anyone who helps or is even just on the scene is under their command, and subject to their orders.  This is an imperative, such that in the future, individuals who ignore or disobey the I.C. on the Ranch will be subject to arrest and removal by the Gallatin County Sheriff’s Department. 

We are grateful to everyone who responded—volunteer fire personnel, resident, neighbor, County units, and the state’s DNRC unit, and certainly, do what you can to protect your own property until fire units arrive (if they can), but note that we must maintain strict protocols at designated fire scenes, and we need your help most of all in doing just that.


Incident Report: August 21, 2007 Fire

Incident Report
Nixon Gulch Fire
Nels D. Sanddal, Interim Fire Chief
August 21, 2007

Fire was reported to Jeff Gates at approximately 3:08 p.m., 9-1-1 was immediately notified and the GRR Fire Department personnel were paged. Four members of the department responded immediately. Mr. Gates established incident command through county dispatch and, following a scene size up, immediately requested mutual aid. Following an initial denial of mutual aid, secondary requests for county assistance were made by Mr. Gates and Mr. Hobbish (who was assisting with administrative aspects of the fire). Likewise, a request for helicopter water drops was made to the Montana Department of Natural Resources.

Equipment was staged and equestrian center staff prepared to evacuate animals from the equestrian center. Civilian volunteers provided a good-faith effort to contribute to fire containment, particularly along the ridgeline and flanks of the fire.

County fire arrived, deployed assets from several departments across the County and managed their resources to assist the GRR Fire Department effort. DNRC began water drops. Both efforts continued until the primary sources of fire were extinguished. The majority of the fire had been knocked down by approximately 4:30 p.m. County fire released their assets at approximately 6:00 p.m. Remaining hotspots, which were well within the blackened perimeter, were attacked by GRR personnel and other ranch residents under the command of Mr. Gates. Mop-up continued until dark at which point efforts were suspended for safety reasons. The fire scene was monitored throughout the night for possible flare-ups. Mop-up re-commenced at daybreak on August 22 and continued throughout the morning.

The fire was deemed fully contained with limited risk of re-ignition in the early afternoon of August 22. Incident command was terminated at 1:30 p.m.

Department personnel continue to monitor the fire site visually and with thermal imaging devices. Changing wind conditions have activated five small hot spots smoldering in root structures below the surface. These have been extinguished as they are located.



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