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Defending your home

Post Independent/Kara K. Pearson Kris Wilson shovels wood chips onto the lawn to save the ground from erosion, while Roger Wilson mows the grass to keep the area surrounding their house free from excess brush and foliage.
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When Kris Wilson saw smoke rising from the Coal Seam Fire in 2002, she and her husband, Roger Wilson, decided it was time to fireproof their home.”I said to Roger, ‘What if that happens to us?’ ” Kris Wilson said. She and Roger have lived in the hills above the Colorado Mountain College’s Spring Valley campus in Glenwood Springs for four years.The Wilsons consulted the Carbondale Fire Department, which helped the couple lay out a plan for creating defensible space around their property. Most recently, the couple called upon Fire Ready, a new fire mitigation company in Glenwood Springs owned by Gloria and Rich Edwards, to enact the plan and mitigate a 100-foot perimeter around their home. On a recent windy afternoon, the Edwardses walked through the Wilsons’ property, pointing out clumps of sagebrush, serviceberry bushes and oak that remain after thinning, or cutting, much of the dense vegetation near the house.When first surveying a property, Rich Edwards asks the homeowner what he or she believes the biggest threat would be in a fire. As heavy gusts whipped through the hillside, it’s no surprise Roger Wilson mentioned the wind. “It’s so dangerous I decided to cut more than required because of the winds,” he said.

Techniques can help “We use thinning and clumping techniques to change the behavior of a fire as it approaches a home in a wildfire event,” Rich Edwards said. By clumping vegetation, a fire likely would fall to the ground and turn to embers between groups of trees. Thinning limits a fire’s ability to spread.The dominant vegetation type in this region is oak, and it’s one of the most dangerous, Rich Edwards said. “It’s incredibly flashy, and it burns intensely.” The 1994 Storm King fire was an oak-driven fire. Throughout Colorado and the West, fire intensity and severity have boomed in the past 10 years. Partly to blame are the more than one million people living in the “red zone,” a region of high-risk for fire, according to the Colorado Department of Natural Resources. A buildup of small trees and undergrowth, resulting from a policy of fire suppression, also have set up conditions for catastrophic blazes. “Fire is nature cleaning herself,” Gloria Edwards said. “It just so happens that people’s homes are in the way, and so the responsibility for the forest falls on the landowner.” And with fire season rapidly approaching, Rich Edwards said the time is now to protect homes, not when the “fire is burning over the next ridge.”

But fireproofing a home doesn’t mean losing the beauty of mountain living, Gloria Edwards said. Although stumps dot the Wilson’s property, aspen, evergreen and other trees still exist – enough vegetation to provide a sense of privacy and enjoyment of nature. “One of the things we try to educate is that you don’t need a pyramid in a gravel lot,” Gloria Edwards said.There are positives, tooMitigation can also bring positive effects, such as providing more open areas for wildlife to graze. “I want to go out with my coffee in the morning and talk to Bambi,” Roger Wilson said. The Edwardses have worked to spread their message of wildfire prevention since the opening of Fire Ready on May 1. The Glenwood Fire Ready branch is part of a network of 10 offices in Colorado, and was founded in 2001 in Durango. Of the 75 Fire Ready homes that have been exposed to wildfire throughout the state, none have burned. Rich Edwards, a lifelong forester, provides a scientific complement to Gloria Edwards’ background in firefighting education.



“We’re using any avenue we can to educate the community about wildfire hazards and what a homeowner can do,” Gloria Edwards said.By contacting homeowner associations, fire departments and insurance agencies, among many others, to talk about fire mitigation, the Edwardses hope that they can get make people aware of the importance of fire prevention. So far, they’ve received a “tremendous response” from the community, Gloria Edwards said.Protecting your home against fire is an ongoing effort, but when a fire does come through, mitigation pays off, Rich Edwards said. The Wilsons’ next project is to create an effective escape route for fire trucks in the case of a blaze.”If you live in this kind of area, you can’t help but think about mitigation,” Kris Wilson said. “It’s just common sense.”Contact Christine Dell’Amore:945-8515, ext. 535cdellamore@postindependent.com


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