In the past two years, the Colorado Springs area experienced the two most destructive wildfires in state history. According to the Gazette, the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest fire killed 4 people, destroyed 833 homes, and cost $600 million in insurance claims.
We can't predict when or where the next fire will occur, but in the wake of the recent devastation, being prepared is critical.
“We live in a fire environment and the perception that we can prevent all wildfires is not realistic. My goal is to… save as many lives and homes as possible." Says Christina Randall, Wildfire Mitigation Administrator with the Division of the Fire Marshal.
Christina emphasizes that facilitating that goal will take community engagement. The fire department has high quality equipment and up to date fire risk maps including 36,500 properties. Nonetheless, when firefighters are on the ground in a fire threatened community, they can only protect the homes that are safe to approach and possible to save.
Effective wildfire mitigation buys time and safety for firefighters and increases the standalone survivability of a home. Mitigation is a homeowner’s responsibility.
Mitigating your home does not mean clear-cutting vegetation; it simply means limiting the amount of flammable material on and around the house. The CSFD (Colorado Springs Fire Department) recommends clearing space to a distance of 10 feet around your home and thinning vegetation to a distance of 30 feet or to your property line, whichever occurs first.
Further recommendations include pruning lower branches of trees that can act as “ladder fuels”, raking up leaves, needles, and other flammable debris, and storing combustible materials safely away from the house. Please look at the CSFD’s fire mitigation brochure and vegetation management brochure for more mitigation tips.
The Fire Department is doing its part to share the responsibility. Homeowners interested in mitigation can call (719) 385-7342 to schedule a free on-site consultation with the Wildfire Mitigation office. Further, at-risk neighborhoods with at least 12 engaged participants can schedule a date for the fire department to bring a wood chipper and haul away cut branches.
El Pomar’s Wild Land Fire Fund joined the effort by making a $600,000 grant to the CSFD that supports Cost-sharing Stipends for homeowners in high and extreme risk neighborhoods with an active mitigation history. The CSFD matches up to $500 in mitigation costs per homeowner in eligible neighborhoods. The CSFD has provided nearly 500 stipends this year alone, more than twice the expected number.
Since the Waldo Canyon Fire last year, the Wild Land Fire Fund has made 81 grants worth $1.8 million to support fire protection districts and organizations that meet first response needs.
Terrance McWilliams, Director of the Wild Land Fire Fund, puts it this way, “We choose to live in God’s great wide open… and we need to understand the risks that go along with that.”
With due care, community engagement, and effective mitigation, we can enjoy the benefits of our beautiful city and minimize those risks.
Please refer to the CSFD website for more information on fire mitigation.
Steve Schopper, Audio/Visual Specialist for the Colorado Springs Fire Department, documented and describes structure protection during the Black Forest Fire. Here we see firefighters working in harmony with effective mitigation by the homeowner to protect the home and the trees on the property.
Check out the video here: