Mapping will ID city’s wildfire hot spots
Post Independent Staff
GLENWOOD SPRINGS – Certain key components of an area’s geography and landscape can turn a small spark into a devastating wildfire. But unless researched, it’s sometimes not clear where these dangerous ingredients are hiding until they’ve already been scorched by fast-moving, 200-foot flames.
That’s where Anchor Point Fire Management comes in.
The Boulder-based company was hired by the Glenwood Springs Fire Department to collect data on the likely fire behavior of a blaze sparked in the Glenwood Springs area. That information, said Anchor Point co-owner Chris White, can help in deciding how to prepare for, and possibly prevent, such a catastrophe.
“The foundation for an assessment is a fire behavior index,” White said. “Where are the areas with large fire potential?”
During the next four months, White said, Anchor Point will work on maps and a report to answer that question.
White and other representatives of the company visited Glenwood Springs City Hall Monday to give a presentation on what the study would accomplish.
The firm was hired by the Glenwood Springs Fire Department using a $20,000 federal grant. To save money by using “sweat equity,” some of the work will be done by local fire and city personnel, such as Glenwood Springs fire protection analyst Ron Biggers and city planner Mike Pelletier. In all, White said, the monetary value of the study will be about $27,000.
“I’m going to be doing a lot of the mapping work,” Pelletier said. “The idea is so homeowners can better prepare their environment, and for the fire department so they can more quickly put a plan into place.”
In addition to educating local fire officials about where the largest fire potential lies, White said it will give the department a base from which to seek additional fire grants.
Once completed, fire officials will know which neighborhoods in the Glenwood Springs Fire Protection District need improvements such as road widening, fuel thinning, more access to water sources and other possible mitigation.
“This is a plan that determines where future efforts in and around Glenwood Springs should occur,” White said. “Where do you get your most bang for your buck?”
The study, which will be done by a team of six people from Anchor Point, will look at vegetation, slope, elevation, aspect (north-facing, south-facing, etc.), crown fire activity, rate of spread and flame length to determine the fire behavior potential.
Fire potentials will be mapped across the district with various colors that refer to the different levels of fire danger.
“There’s a lot of money out there for implementation to make this work,” White said, referring to federal, state and local grants. “I say that because I see a lot of past clients getting a lot of money in.”
Once the study is done, White said, it’s important for residents to take heed and do their part in reducing the threat of wildfires.
“The community has to embrace this,” White said.
Pelletier hopes that once the project is complete, it will encourage nearby towns and fire districts to get their own reports.
“It sounds like that’s been the experience of neighboring towns that have done it,” Pelletier said.
Contact Greg Masse: 945-8515, ext. 511
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