Get Your House Ready for Fire Season -From the Denver Post

Because the Denver Post is one of the larger newspapers in Elk Country (the interior West), you see different kinds of stories here than in places where neighbors are not evacuated due to wildfires. I thought the above diagram with what to do to prepare your home and yourself deserved wider circulation that just Post readers. You can read it more clearly by looking at this link and clicking on the image to make it larger.

As Jim Fenwood has suggested perhaps the whole “living with wildfire” deal needs to be rethought. But for this fire season (I was close to being evacuated, although I live in town), we are dealing with what is, and not what might be in the future.

Finally, I was working at home one weekend while the Indian Gulch fire was in back of my house. Smoke was in the air and the whirring of helicopters coming by to get water at a pond in back of the neighbor’s house. I think sometimes some people outside of our fire-prone country think there are “good people” who live in town, and “bad people” who live in the woods and who are fragmenting the landscape. Where I live the distinctions are not so clear. Plus in my hometown (Golden) many people who live in the canyons come down to restaurants, stores, or to the library. They are all members of our community. Any policy provisions to be debated need to recognize the communities as we experience them.

Here’s a photo of the Indian Gulch fire by Jeff Warner, a local photographer. Other of his photos, including more on the fire, can be found at his blog here.

2 thoughts on “Get Your House Ready for Fire Season -From the Denver Post”

  1. I never thought of people as being “bad” who lived in the urban/forest interface. I sometimes thought of them as being lucky (else rich or both) for being able to live that close to nature and that far from neighbors, but not “bad.” Sometimes, though, when fires raged too close to their houses, I thought of them as foolhardy, and longed for a government system that required them to pay higher taxes for at least their extended fire-protection service privileges.

    When I was on a city council (with its own urban/forest interface zone) we always had folks clamoring for less government–fewer zoning restrictions, subdivision ordinances, etc. But the clamoring ceased once the hillsides ignited and homes were threatened. It also ceased when police protection might be needed, else home fire protection generally.

    We had one group of “libertarians” (no doubt TEA Party folks now) who used to show up madder than hornets for any number of reasons at our meetings. I can’t recall that they ever showed up happy. Then they would “write us up” in their local right-wing newspaper rag. I once reminded them of a particular zone that a Colorado county commissioner had proposed, called “the stupid zone.” The idea would be to zone out part of Western US counties for those who clamored for no government services. Then to let them live out there for a while and see how it went. No sign ordinances, no nuisance ordinances, no public streets or schools, no police, no fire protection services, no local government intrusion. Might still prove to be an interesting experiment someplace/sometime. I wonder whether the murder rate would be lower or higher. Certainly there would be more folks packin’ heat. Well, maybe not more than in the rural US West these days.

    PS.. I am glad to see newspapers reminding folks to get houses ready for “fire season.”

  2. Dave- I didn’t mean to imply that you or anyone on the blog thought that people who buy and build in the WUI are “bad.” But in some places, building is treated as a kind of sin. And I thought, living in town, that I was safe from being preached at on this.

    At least one commenter on our local fire seemed to think it was some kind of ecosystem payback for having houses on otherwise natural ground (even though we are in town). In this framing, having a house in an otherwise natural area (aren’t they all?) is a kind of environmental sin.

    We have an intern in our office who is a student working on a paper on “zoning reform” for one of her classed. The concept involves looking at zoning to ensure that it encourages a sustainable lifestyle. Here’s a link to an article about zoning reform in Anchorage.

    I wonder if we applied those concepts to fire country, what would that look like?
    Different fire zones depending on risk with different levels of fees? What about the insurance industry? Could we institute some of these practices by grandfathering existing structures and slowly phasing in new tax rates for new builds? Given the economy and foreclosures, is this kind of building in the relative backcountry still going on?

    It seems to me about 15 years ago when I worked on the Hill, the insurance industry was talking about some of these issues for western fire-prone areas. Does anyone have what they consider a good model that some community has developed?


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