Council advocates fire-adapted communities |

Council advocates fire-adapted communities

Jack Reyering

If you live in western Colorado, you must accept the responsibility of preparing your home as best as you can against wildfires.

That was among the messages Wednesday at a forum held by the Two Rivers Wildfire-Smart Council that focused how to become a fire-adapted community.

“That’s what we want to be,” said Jeff Leonard, a State Farm insurance agent: “A real, full blown, fire-adapted community.”

Firefighters, insurance agents, U.S. Forest Service representatives and members of local homeowners associations discussed what homeowners can do prepare for wildfire.

“Fire is here, it’s natural, and it has its benefits,” said Doug Paul, a wildland fire mitigation and training officer. “We need to learn how to live with the fire.”

Fire officers and marshals including Paul and Lathan Johnson of the Upper Colorado River Fire Management Unit are trained professionals who know how to manage wildfires. But the power of wildfires coupled with the taxpayer expense and scarcity of wildfire fighting resources motivates them to speak at forums like this one to help individuals prepare themselves for the worst-case scenario.

“In the first hour, those fires can grow so rapidly,” said Johnson. “Some days, the fire wins. But if we can build our community to adapt to fire, we may not need all of those resources.”

The council offered a range of advice and literature for how to create a “defensible space” to prepare homes against wildfire. By properly maintaining structures and landscaping a home’s defensible space, homeowners can greatly increase their home’s ability to survive a wildfire.

According to Colorado State Forest Service Quick Guide Series, homes are most likely to catch fire from burning embers carried by the wind. Using fire-resistant or fire-hardened materials such as tile, clay, brick and concrete along the roof and exterior of a structure makes it much less likely to catch fire from burning embers.

The guide also recommends screening off openings under porches and decks, as well as any windows or other places along the exterior of a structure where windblown embers can get inside.

Landscaping the immediate area surrounding the structure can also help prevent it from catching on fire from the radiant heat of a nearby wildfire.

According to a Firewise Community pamphlet, trimming back overhanging branches and pruning branches of trees at least six feet off the ground can prevent fires from spreading tree to tree and ultimately to nearby houses and other structures.

Removing dead vegetation and other flammable materials from the areas touching or immediately surrounding structures is a must.

The Firewise Communities and Two Rivers Wildfire-Smart Council members will to continue to spread awareness to prevent the loss of life, property and habitats. They hope to have council members representing all of the surrounding communities in order to strengthen the grassroots movement and spread awareness.

Anyone interested joining the council or seeking further information can contact them at

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