Much of Colorado’s Western Slope and the Roaring Fork, and Crystal River Valley areas are considered a high hazard fire environment. Based on past experience, including the devastating South Canyon fire in 1994 that killed 14 firefighters on Storm King Mountain, the 2002 Coal Seam Fire, and the Panorama Fire, this area possesses all the ingredients necessary to support large, intense, and uncontrollable wildfires.
Within the hazardous environment, there are individual houses, subdivisions, and entire communities. Many of these homeowners, however, are ill prepared to survive an intense wildfire. Since it is not a question of “if” a wildfire will occur but “when”, the likelihood of more human life and property loss is great and growing.
There is increasing recognition that our ability to live more safely in this fire environment depends upon “pre-fire activities.” Pre-fire activities are actions taken before a wildfire occurs which improve the survivability of people and homes. They include proper vegetation management around the home (know as defensible space), use of fire resistant building materials, appropriate subdivision design, and other measures. Research clearly demonstrates that pre-fire activities save lives and property. An effective defensible space is not bare ground, it is merely breaking up the continuity of fuels, both across the ground and from the ground into the tree crowns. You can keep that important tree next to your house or those that screen you from neighbor but don’t allow paths of continuous fuels leading up to your house. More trees and shrubs are not better either for plant health or a fire standpoint. Make the vegetation patchy and reduce root competition for our meager moisture in the arid West.
Fire experts are available to present programs and answer questions related to wildfire mitigation. If your homeowners association or organization is interested in scheduling a presentation contact the fire agency having jurisdiction in your area. Click here for a list of some fire departments in this local area.