Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Wildfires and Your Defensible Space – A Reminder by Patti O'Neal

Colorado is on fire – again.  One of the greatest pleasures of living in such a scenic state as Colorado is living in and enjoying the amazing beauty of our heavily wooded mountains.  But that comes with a cost – the threat of fire.   And whether that cost is caused by an act of nature or a careless human, the net result can be the same – loss of life and property.  We are now experiencing the largest most destructive fire in the history of our state as well as some record temperatures and winds, so special care and attention to practices and actions of the part of all of Colorado’s citizens is of the utmost importance. 

Since the Hayman fire in 2002, the forest service has made considerable effort educate and to patrol mountain communities to check that homeowners are practicing good “defensible space” techniques to minimize the danger of loss of life and property.   Under the circumstances, a few reminders never hurt. 

What is defensible space?  This is the area around a structure where fuels and vegetation are treated, cleared or reduced to prevent or stall  the spread of fire towards the structure.  It can also act in reverse and prevent fire from the structure from spreading to the nearby forested area.  It provides a space for fire fighters to do their jobs safely and more easily.
The two factors that have emerged as the primary determinants of a homes ability to survive a wildfire are a home’s roofing material and the quality of the defensible space. 

Your area should be divided up into 3 zones from close in to the house to the surrounding forest area.  There are particular recommendations for remedies for each of those areas as laid out by the Colorado forest service at CSU.  They provide best management practices for mowing, thinning and pruning, planting and even storing certain materials in those areas while honoring the beauty and serviceability if the area.  

Home with defensible space that survived

There are a couple of informative fact sheets from CSU and CSFS at CSU that outlines all of these specifications and practices. The first one totally outlines what defensible space is and is found at http://csfs.colostate.edu/pages/defensible-space.html
http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/natres/06302.html  goes on to give readers a helpful checklist to maintain their defensible zones in years to come with a great reference list of additional materials to check out to keep you and your property safe as you enjoy all the beauty and recreational abundance that living in the Colorado Mountains has to offer.