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Updating home wildfire mitigation in Woodland Park

By Scott Harrison
Published On: Mar 28 2014 07:59:12 PM CDT
Updated On: Mar 28 2014 09:25:37 PM CDT

A state forester says recent wildfires have created more awareness of, if not an increase in, creating defensible space around homes and other property.

WOODLAND PARK, Colo. -

The Black Forest and Waldo Canyon wildfires have raised awareness of the need for mitigating homes on private property in Woodland Park, if not led to an increase in mitigation, a state forester said Friday.

Dave Root, assistant district forester for the Colorado State Forest Service, said around 10 percent of homeowners in town mitigate -- create defensible space around their property to allow firefighters enough space to protect homes or other structures during a wildfire.

A wildland firefighter in Colorado Springs said Thursday that he believed residential mitigation since the two wildfires wasn't happening as much as it should.

"I kind of understand the firefighter's perception," Root said.  "We'd all like to have every property owner mitigated.  That's a tall order, and it's something that takes time and effort, and is not going to be done overnight."

Root said Woodland Park is no better or worse than most communities regarding mitigation, and that the town is among the most proactive in mitigation.

Root mentioned community programs in which communities work together, and agencies which provide grant money to help homeowners pay the cost of mitigation -- a cost that can range from several hundred dollars to several thousand, he said, depending on the size of a lot and the amount of material to be removed.

Val Carr, a Woodland Park homeowner, moved to town two years after the 2002 Hayman Fire, which then was the most destructive wildfire in state history.  He began mitigating his property after Waldo Canyon in 2012.

"We were very wary of (it) coming right over the back of our house," Carr said.  "A mile away is where they stopped it.  We worry every time there's a fire.  We plan vacations around wildfire season."

Carr said he cut down and thinned trees on his property, and replaced mulch beds with rock beds after seeing how burning mulch spread fires in Black Forest last summer.

Firefighters recommend at least 30 feet of open space around a home.  However, one Woodland Park resident said a forester told him that as little as 15 feet provides adequate protection.

Because of the large number of wooden homes with trees close by, Woodland Park has long been a source of concern for its wildfire risk.  A similar concern existed about Black Forest before the wildfire there.

Woodland Park had a close call during Waldo Canyon when the fire came close enough to threaten the town and force evacuations.

"It's up to homeowners to mitigate," Root said.  "We can't make them do it.  But it does make a difference."

Here are two links to more information about personal wildfire mitigation:

http://csfs.colostate.edu/pages/wildfire.html

http://www.springsgov.com/Page.aspx?NavID=101

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