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More home wildfire mitigation needed, firefighter says

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Mar 27 2014 08:46:51 PM CDT

A local wildland firefighter says despite recent devastating wildfires, homeowners are still slow to create defensible space around their property.

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -

Recent devastating wildfires should remind us of the need to create defensible space around our homes, but a wildland firefighter said on Thursday that such mitigation isn't happening as much as it should.

Peter Johnston of the Colorado Springs Fire Department said although mitigation saved many homes during the 2012 Waldo Canyon Fire and last year's Black Forest Fire, many more were destroyed because people had trees and other fire fuels too close to property.

"We recommend at least 30 feet of open space," he said.  "It gives us a better chance to save a structure if we're trying to protect it."

Johnston said he's particularly concerned about the fire danger in the Skyway and Broadmoor areas of west Colorado Springs.

"Access and egress to both those areas are somewhat limited," he said.  "The fuels are not mitigated all that well in those areas -- and quite frankly, they are a concern for us."

Recent evacuation drills in Skyway, Johnston said, should have those residents prepared to seek safety if a wildfire threatens.

Meanwhile, as another fire season arrives, many firefighters are waiting to see if state lawmakers will approve the creation of a fleet of firefighting aircraft.  A Senate bill proposes establishing four slurry planes and three helicopters that would be used in Colorado wildfires.

A Canadian firm seeking to provide the fleet demonstrated part of it this week in Centennial.  A spokesperson from Gov. John Hickenlooper's office said action on the bill could happen as soon as next week.

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