Fire Resilient Communities: Waldo Fire Report

From Inciweb Waldo Canyon Fire - June 26th

Credit: Adam Drake
From Inciweb Waldo Canyon Fire – June 26th
Credit: Adam Drake

Imagining a positive mutual future for wildland urban interface areas…check out this video about how Colorado Springs worked to create a Fire Resilient community, and their experience with the Waldo Canyon Fire. If you haven’t been around a western more or less urban community experiencing fire, listening to some of the interviews may give you a look at what it feels like to folks who live there.

Also, at about 4:30 in the video, Brett Lacy, the Fire Marshall of the Colorado Springs Fire Department, says “we expected the fire to go to those mitigation areas and lay down, but in most instances it hit those areas and went out,” and shows a couple of areas. Looks like those areas are beyond the home ignition zone. We have discussed these kinds of things on the blog before, but I think this video is helpful in seeing the areas treated and how that affected fire behavior.

You might also want to check out other information on the Fire Adapted Communities website here.

1 thought on “Fire Resilient Communities: Waldo Fire Report”

  1. Thanks for posting this video here Sharon. I just watched it and here are some of the key points I took away.

    But, first, let me point out that I don’t know of one single environmental organization in the country that doesn’t completely support the FireWise measures explained in the video. In fact, I know of a number of high-profile examples of where environmental organizations have been leaders in getting these FireWise steps and concepts in front of more homeowners and communities across the country.

    The video mentioned that the fire started in very hot and dry conditions. The video also made it clear that on the day in which most homes were destroyed by fire that the winds were gusting to 65 miles per hour. To put that into perspective, the National Weather Service would issue a Hurricane Force Wind Warning if gusts top 75 mph, so needless to say 65 mph winds will knock you down to the ground and cause significant damage and disruption just on their own.

    As a result of those winds, one fire official stated, “A lot of the primary fuels were the houses. So the ignitions were house to house….it really turned into an urban conflagration.”

    Of the 345 homes destroyed in the fire 76 had shake shingle roof. 81% of the homes in the immediate area survived the wildfire and clearly the mitigation measures the homeowners took on their own home and their immediate surroundings ahead of time was a big reason why. So too, the mitigation work done right within the neighborhoods ahead of time had a big positive impact.

    Another likely hero to this story is the Class A roofing ordinance and code put in place by Colorado Springs in 2003. Once again the environmental community has always supported stronger building codes and ordinances within the WUI. Of course, in many wildfire-prone parts of the country such support of simple and effective building codes and ordinances is a form of communism, a UN conspiracy and/or just a simple “taking” of one’s private land and their “rights.” So, in many parts of the country enacting these common sense codes/ordinances would be meet with hostile resistance and conspiracy theories.

    Finally, unless I missed it, I didn’t hear much about logging a few miles away from the homes and community. I also didn’t hear the word “bark beetles” or “dead trees” once. Again, maybe I just missed it.

    But certainly, kudos to Colorado Springs for what sounds like a model FireWise program. Once again, if we want to effectively protect homes and communities from wildfire, we start at the home and its immediate surroundings and go from there. The video seemed to make the point that if only 1 out of 3 homeowners take the common-sense steps ahead of time, before the fire starts, that those other non-responsible homeowners are actually putting all the other homes, people and firefighters at risk.

    Oh, one last thing. Does anyone know how long, and what the total cost was, of all the NEPA analysis needed to conduct all this FireWise work around homes and within key neighborhoods in Colorado Springs? Also, what was the total NEPA cost/analysis time of imposing the Class A roofing code? I’d imagine getting that FireWise work done with all the tangled requirements of NEPA, NFMA, ESA, etc must tough, expensive and time-consuming.

    Wait…what’s that? None of these simple, effective, common-sense FireWise measures require NEPA or consultation with the USFWS or fall victim to supposed “analysis paralysis”? You mean, homeowners, local community members, neighborhood associations, local government, etc can just do this work on their own, whenever they want?

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