Experts Talk How to Keep People Safe From Wildfires- At the County Level

From Colorado Roadless presentations (2007)

It’s interesting to look at the scale of counties and see what they are doing about living with fire. Here’s a link to the story from the Summit Daily News.

A couple of things to notice in this local coverage, the key seems to be listening to experts about what they can do. They are not attributing causes (which takes up a lot of academic time, as we have seen, and may well be impossible to tease out). They are also not saying people should move out, nor not build in the WUI. They are more dealing with the situation as it is, is projected and what can be done within their state and local capabilities. Also there is not timber industry to speak of, so that level of controversy isn’t on the table. Realistically people aren’t moving out, and we can’t afford to do fuel treatments everywhere and concern about wildfire isn’t going to change climate polices. So we’re stuck with each other and this situation, and work with each other to try to make things better. It seems to me that local press reflects this worldview more than national press (wildfires due to climate change! Too many people living in rural areas! the evil timber industry (not Calfire) wants to do fuel treatments!). Maybe because they are not funded by clicks due to fear-mongering nor appealing to particular narratives. Just a thought.

Their experts are not academics, but state and local people who are responsible for wildfire mitigation.

Moderated by Summit County Commissioner Karn Stiegelmeier, the panel included Logan Sand, recovery and resilience planner for the Colorado Department of Local Affairs; Molly Mowery, owner of Wildfire Planning International, a company that specializes in wildfire mitigation planning; and Jim Curnutte, Summit County’s director of community development. Each gave a presentation on a different aspect of wildfire mitigation planning.

They accept that growth is occurring in the WUI and explore ways to deal with it, and live with fire.

Mowery said that poor planning and lack of resources may mean subdivisions are at risk from day one.

“In certain communities, the fastest response time from a local fire department might be an hour,” Mowery said. “Developments that need to account for wildfire, but don’t have resources to do so, are a major problem.”

Mowery suggested new subdivisions are designed with fire protection standards in mind so that they do not have to rely exclusively on first responders. She also suggested communities adopt WUI codes specific to areas that would affect existing development.

Subdivision standards may require neighborhoods to be designed with easy water access, proper evacuation routes and signage, minimum fuel setbacks and protection of critical infrastructure and utilities in mind.

WUI codes would go further, with local authorities proactively engaging with homeowners to take care of hazards on their property, such as asking them to store firewood away from decks or clearing dry brush near their homes.

3 thoughts on “Experts Talk How to Keep People Safe From Wildfires- At the County Level”

  1. A brother of mine lives in a high-risk area where the County requires and inspects fire-safe actions. If the work isn’t completed, the work is done by County contractors and you’re billed, via property taxes. The problem is that inspections aren’t consistent with the current laws. For example, my brother has an incense cedar in his yard, just 15 feet from his home, and its highly-flammable crown needs to be trimmed to meet the law. However, those limbs block the hot afternoon sun and provides a screen for his yard and pool. My brother doesn’t realize just how flammable green incense cedar foliage is. He doesn’t want to talk about the risk to his million dollar home.

  2. Maybe your brother-in-law should witness just how flammable an incense cedar can be. I remember me witnessing a similar situation with shrubbery on a prescribed burn. After seeing how fast that shrubbery became engrossed in flame, I ripped out that kind of shrubbery around my house that weekend.

  3. I’d like to see a requirement for realtors to disclose the fire risk ratings for the area, the degree to which that is addressed by the design of the development and lot, and the likely response time and effort. Covenants should also address the property uses and maintenance requirements so that parties could compel a neighbor to reduce their adjacent fire risks.


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