WILDFIRE SAFETY: BEING PREPARED IN SUMMIT COUNTY

Living in the high country gives way to a beautiful lifestyle set in the mountains. The community, outdoor activities, rich and varying landscapes, and definitive season changes are among some of the reasons why people never want to leave the mountains of Colorado. Witnessing nature’s profound regeneration is incredible, allowing us to understand some of the key elements that shape these landscapes, and teaches us how we can contribute as a community to protect our mountain towns throughout these changes in our ecosystem.

Due to Colorado’s arid climate and fire-dependent forests, homeowners and landowners are more vulnerable to wildfires. If you are a homeowner in Colorado, you probably already understand that fires are a natural part of our ecosystem. Fires are the most significant factor in shaping the forest landscapes; as a result, it’s important to understand how we can prepare for the inevitable threat of wildfires, and protect our properties. By living in Summit County, you are a resident of the wildland-urban interface (WUI). The WUI consists of homes, buildings, or other urban structures sharing the same space as wildland vegetative fuels.  A common such fuel that is abundant throughout Colorado, is the Lodgepole pine tree. More than 80% of forested lands within Summit County are composed of highly flammable lodgepole pines, which rely on wildfire for regeneration. Because our neighborhoods are surrounded by forests, it is important that we plan ahead and take action to reduce the potential impacts of wildfires. We can do this by creating a ‘defensible zone’ around our homes and remove or reduce vegetation such as logs, trees, and branches.

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Protecting Your Property

Creating a defensible zone around your home is a critical aspect of protecting our mountain community and helps homes to be less vulnerable from this naturally occurring phenomenon. As homes continue to be built among the lush forests of our community, it becomes increasingly important to make sure your property and surrounding community is wildfire safe. Recent wildfires in Summit County such as the 2018 Buffalo Mountain Fire, Peak Two Fire, and the Tenderfoot Fire of 2017 amongst a few others, have given us real evidence of the importance of having a defensible zone around our homes and developed areas. By clearing vegetation from around your property, the defensible zone gives your home a fighting chance against an approaching wildfire.

Every home in Summit County should have a defensible zone. Here are something you can do to increase the chances of your home surviving a wildfire:

●       Remove vegetation from around outside walls and underneath decks and porches

●       Remove dead leaves

●       Replace loose or damaged window screens

●       Replace loose roof tiles

●       Remove debris from gutters

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Take Action: Wildfire Resources

So, are you and your home prepared for a wildfire? It’s the preparation that homeowners in the high country do in advance that help protects their home from surviving a wildfire. If you need some help figuring out the best plan for creating an effective defensible zone, the firefighters at Red, White & Blue provide a free voluntary inspection of your property and can provide you with additional information on how to make your property more resilient against fires. By removing flammable vegetation, you are clearing the area and lowering the possibility for quick-fire spread, should there be a wildfire in your area. For more information and a free assessment, call Red, White, & Blue at 970-453-2474 or email mitigation@rwfire.org.

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Wildfire season is May 1st- November 1st, so if you haven’t already cleared your defensible zone for wildfire season, do it soon. The Summit County Chipping Program is a great resource If you have a slash pile (branches, logs, small trees) that you collected from your defensible zone around your home and need to get rid of it. Reach out to The Summit County Chipper Program and they will chip it and haul it away for you at no cost. View the pile guidelines and pick-up schedule here. For more information on the Summit County Chipping Program, call (970) 668-4140.

2019 Summit County Chipping Program Results

1,931 local households participated

3,738 slash piles removed

5,400 cubic yards of chips were hauled to Climax Molybdenum Mine for reclamation efforts


Protecting Our Communities

Summit County is dedicated to protecting our communities. The Summit County community voters passed the Strong Future Fund in 2018, which provides around $1M every year to support wildlife mitigation efforts. Some of these efforts include wildlife prevention patrols, fuel breaks around neighborhoods, hazardous fuel reduction, public education access, and others. The Strong Future Fund’s program, Open Space, is also committed to maintaining safe wildland areas as the program identifies, protects, and manages open spaces, trails, and trailheads to preserve and maintain Summit County’s rural mountain character, unique natural areas and high quality of life for residents and visitors. The program has protected around 17,500 acres of land through over 347 acquisitions and dedications, working with over 200 landowners. Together, we can continue to protect our lands for years to come.


Current Summit County Wildfire Protection Projects

To improve the community's safety, the Open Space program recently started a wildfire fuel reduction project on the Wildernest – Mesa Cortina open space which began in 2019 in partnership with the Colorado State Forest Service and Willowcreek Timber Services. In October last year, timber crews began felling, stacking, and removing trees from areas of the open space. This will ultimately reduce tree densities and improve growing conditions, which will, in turn, improve forest resiliency and health. For additional information on this project, contact the Summit County Open Space & Trails Department: 970-668-4065.

The most important thing you can do in anticipation of wildfire season is to be prepared. There are numerous resources in the county to help you create an effective and properly maintained defensible zone around your home. Living in the mountains is incredible for so many reasons so, in order to be prepared for the inevitable wildfire season, we must work together as a community and keep our homes safe so we can continue to enjoy our homes for years to come.

Is it time for you to own a mountain paradise home? Contact Jan today on how to navigate this new real estate reality in our current market.