The recent fire in the small town of Eckley, in the state’s northeastern plains, highlights the threats to homes and property from wildfire in communities across Colorado. The lack of snowfall, coupled with higher-than-normal temperatures and high winds, lead experts to predict that Colorado’s wildfire season will be active and potentially dangerous.
In 2011, Colorado witnessed over 1,200 fires that scorched more than 160,000 acres, and in September 2010, 167 homes in the Boulder area were burned in the Fourmile Canyon Fire. But many local residents have already taken steps to reduce their wildfire risk.? Using proven principles for wildfire safety, 35?Colorado communities have participated for several years in the national Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program, which emphasizes community involvement and helps residents learn how to do their part to keep their homes and property safer from wildfire.
Participating communities include numerous homeowner associations in Colorado Springs and Breckenridge, as well as two of the very first recognized Firewise communities in the nation — the Perry Park Metro District in Larkspur and Genesee in Golden. From Windcliff in Estes Park in the north central part of the state on the Front Range, to Santa Fe Trail Ranch in Trinidad, near the New Mexico border, communities all over the state are using Firewise principles to become safer.
A list of all Colorado Firewise-recognized sites can be found on the Firewise website.
The Firewise program provides a number of resources to help residents get started on wildfire safety mitigation activities. Complimentary brochures, booklets, pamphlets, videos and much more can be found on the “information and resources” page of the website and ordered online through the Firewise catalog.
Wildfire doesn’t have to burn everything in its path. In fact, cleaning your property of debris and maintaining your landscaping are important first steps. Below are additional actions you can take to reduce the risk of your home and property becoming fuel for a wildfire:
• Clear leaves and other debris from gutters, eaves, porches and decks. This prevents embers from igniting your home.
• Create a “fire-free” area within five feet of the home, using non-flammable landscaping materials such as rocks, pavers and/or high-moisture content annuals and perennials.
• Remove dead vegetation from under your deck and within 10 feet of the house.
• Remove flammable materials (firewood stacks, propane tanks, dry vegetation) within 30 feet of your home’s foundation and outbuildings, including garages and sheds. If it can catch fire, don’t let it touch your house, deck or porch.
• If you have trees on your property, prune so the lowest branches are 6 to 10 feet from the ground.
• Don’t let debris and lawn cuttings linger. Dispose of these items quickly to reduce fuel for fire.
• When planting, choose slow-growing, carefully placed shrubs and trees so the area can be more easily maintained.
Landscape with native and less-flammable plants. Your state forestry agency or county extension office can provide plant information. Firewise landscaping and plants list are also available on the Firewise website.
• Keep your lawn hydrated and maintained. Dry grass and shrubs are fuel for wildfire.
Planning to update your home? Consider Firewise construction materials for decks, porches and fences.
Ask your retailer for “Class-A” materials including asphalt shingles and metal, cement and concrete products. Double-paned or tempered glass windows also make a home more resistant to heat and flames.
Learn more about how to keep your family safe and reduce your home’s risk for wildfire damage at www.firewise.org.
The Firewise Communities Program encourages local solutions for wildfire safety by involving homeowners, community leaders, planners, developers, firefighters and others in creating fire-adapted communities — places where people and property are safer from the risk of brush, grass and forest fires. Firewise is a program of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and co-sponsored by the USDA Forest Service, the US Department of the Interior and the National Association of State Foresters.