Wildfire Mitigation on Open Space

wildlifeWildfires in Colorado are a natural part of our ecosystems, and they can help restore and maintain healthy forests. The wildland-urban interface (WUI) can be described as the area where structures and other human development meet or intermingle with wildland vegetative fuels. Where homes and other infrastructure have been built in this WUI, it is generally important to mitigate these built features against the inevitable risk of wildland fire.

The forests in the Summit County area have evolved with fire as an agent of change and renewal, and fire is the most significant factor in shaping the forest landscape we see today. Generally speaking, the return interval, or years between major fire events, increases as altitude increases, but fire remains a significant risk in our wildland-urban interface. When considering fire in these ecosystems, it is crucial to assess the current stand conditions because they will define fire behavior and, consequently, potential fire hazard.

Strong Future Funding

Passed by Summit County voters in November 2018, the Strong Future Fund (Measure 1A) provides about $1 million per year for wildfire mitigation programs and strategies, including fuel breaks around neighborhoods, hazardous fuels reduction, street-sign improvements for responder navigation, fire hydrant line improvements, cistern installation, road upgrades for firefighting equipment access, secondary egresses from subdivisions, wildfire prevention patrols and public education on wildfire prevention.

Projects and Partnerships

Open Space's mission includes maintaining healthy, diverse forests while reducing wildfire hazard. Our goal is to evaluate projects in “Focus Areas” of the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI), as defined by the Community Wildfire Protection Plan because forest treatments far from focus areas may have little effect on community safety. Fuelbreaks and fuels reduction have proven themselves to be effective in Summit County and Colorado, in general.

In partnership between the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) and Open Space, a CSFS forester drafts treatment plans for high priority open spaces, manages contracts and contractors for wildfire mitigation projects, recommends prescriptions and oversees maintenance of past cuts, and evaluates timber projects on open spaces adjacent to private parcels as requested by the public.

The timber felling, log hauling and stacking (or piling) phase of the Wildernest / Mesa Cortina fuels reduction project is complete. Pile burning will occur sometime in fall or winter of 2020 once the wood has cured and conditions are safe. More information and announcements will be available then.