Mesa County case study
Improve Fire Prevention and Suppression Reduce Hazardous FuelsRestore Fire Adapted Ecosystems Promote Community AssistanceSummary

 

 

WGA Goal - Promote Community Assistance


Actions to meet goal

  • Reduce losses to communities from wildland fire
  • Promote markets for traditionally underutilized wood
  • Promote opportunities to continue and enhance sustainable livestock grazing as part of restoration strategies
  • Increase incentives for private landowners to address defensible space and fuels management needs on private property
  • Promote local government incentives through fire-sensitive land use planning

ARC Wildfire Mitigation Activities

ARC brochureWork days, demonstration sites, distribution of education materials, cost share programs from the State Forest Service, and other assistance is provided or promoted by ARC. For instance the Red Cross and a local fire department may organize a community wildfire preparedness day. For a community wildfire preparedness day, Bear's main partners are local fire districts and volunteer fire departments. Usually Bear contacts a local fire department and asks if they would like to have a presentation to the community about defensible space and wildfire hazards. He works with the fire department to develop a community wildfire preparedness flyer and agenda for the meeting, and then he goes door-to-door to pass out the flyers. The presentations are held at the local fire station. Bear lines up speakers on technical issues like fire history, fire behavior, defensible space, home fire preparedness, and evacuation planning from BLM and USFS. State Forestry will talk about their 50/50 cost share program for creating defensible space around homes. BLM will encourage the community to do a preplan and talk about the funding they have available for those plans.

Bear has had mixed results since getting started in Mesa County. In the summer of 2002, he held a meeting at Glade Park that was not well attended. But then had one with the Plateau Valley Fire Department in the same summer that was attended by 82 people. They had greater attendance at the Plateau Valley meeting because smoke from a local fire was present in the neighborhood. The local fire department and Red Cross volunteers went door-to-door talking to residents to encourage attendance. The meeting was followed up with home site assessments from the CSFS. Out of this particular meeting, 35-40 people wanted defensible space assessments for their homes. On average Bear estimates about 30% of the people that attend preparedness meetings follow through to do the mitigation work. The home assessments are free and then it is up to the homeowners to do the defensible space work. Two other meetings in 2002 in Colbran and Mesa attracted 65 and 58 residents respectively.

The ability to get out and do home site assessments have been the biggest help to ARC's partner agencies. ARC uses the same prescription used by CSFS-the defensible space zone prescription that preceded the 6.302 prescription. Both CSFS and ARC find this is a more user-friendly prescription for the homeowner. If a homeowner wants to be involved in the cost share program, they will work with CSFS, possibly with ARC's initial assistance. But if they want to work on their own, then they can just work with ARC. In 2002, ARC did 218 home site assessments in Mesa County. Bear usually works with a forester and the forester actually does the treatment design, while Bear talks to the homeowner about defensible space and treating the 30-foot area directly around the home. Bear estimates it would take about $300,000 on an annual basis to address the cost share needs in the ten counties they cover on an annual basis, including Mesa County. A more aggressive cost share program would help accelerate treatment, say an 80/20 cost share.

ARC hopes to expand more in the direction of doing community wildfire preparedness on private lands next to public land where agencies are actively working so they create "seamless landscape scale mitigation".

Glade Park

Glade FD pictureGlade Park is a small community of 1,600 that is not under a taxable fire protection district, but rather has organized its own volunteer fire department. Glade Park Fire Department has existed since 1980. Nearly 60% of their calls are wildland fire, 30% are medical and 10% are structural fire. They used Global Positioning Satellite to map the 425 homes in their area to facilitate easy location in case of a fire. Glade Park recently got a new Fire Chief who has been very active in getting his folks trained, and has also been proactive in interagency cooperation. The biggest problem in Glade Park is getting people to create defensible space. Even though there are regulations for creating defensible space on new properties, these are not enforced and most people don't even know they exist. In fact the previous Fire Chief has not done defensible space on his land. During the Dierich Fire in 2002, the Glade Park WUI picturecommunity was evacuated and this raised awareness among the people. Some people seem to be doing more defensible space and CSFS is putting out defensible space information at local stores.

 

Glade Park Fire Department

Glade Park Fire Department relies almost solely on contributions to fund their activities, since there is no tax base for the fire department. One activity they have is a movie they show on the side of the firehouse every Friday night. Donations go to support the Glade Park Fire Department. The first movie in 1981 brought in $37, now they bring in $750-2,400 annually. In the fall 2003, Glade Park purchased a BLM truck from the proceeds of their Friday night movie fund. In 2002 they used VFA/RFA money to purchase a BLM brush truck. The BLM has done hundreds of acres of fuels reductions in the Glade Park/Pinyon Mesa area. The challenge has been to get their projects closer to peoples' homes. People don't want cut trees and roller-chopped brush next to their property where it will do the most good from a wildfire hazard reduction standpoint. BLM has 7 thinning projects planned for the next few years around Glade Park. They have passed the Environmental Assessment and will be implementing the projects.

 

Colorado State Forest Service Cost-Share Programs

National Fire Plan money is available to private landowners for 50% cost-share fuels reduction to a specified standard. CSFS generally cost-shares a fuel break or defensible space type clearing as well as forest thinning. There are specified standards that have to be achieved to get the cost-share funding for all treatment work. CSFS in Mesa County uses what they call "defensible space zones," the predecessor to the 6.302 prescription, for defensible space work on homeowner property. CSFS also funds volunteer fire departments and fire districts to coordinate defensible space in their areas. In the past all State Fire Assistance (SFA) WUI cost-share grant monies for Mesa County were applied for by the Interagency Fire Advisory Board (IFAB), but as of 2003 these funds have been managed directly through CSFS-GJ. Since 2001 CSFS-GJ has reimbursed $358,049 to landowners with 126 landowners participating and 1,654 acres treated in the district, of which 1,242 acres were treated in Mesa County for fuel breaks and defensible space work.

In Mesa County in 2001, CSFS cost-shared three fuel breaks for a total of 464 treated acres at a cost of $89,367 ($192 per acre). In 2002, CSFS cost-shared 10 projects that covered 694.6 acres of treatment at a cost of $92,604. Three fuel breaks totaled $71,174 on 654 acres. The other seven were defensible space projects on 40.6 acres costing $21,430. In 2003 Mesa County treated 601 acres involving 9 landowners that did 2 fuelbreaks, and 7 defensible space/thinnings at a cost of $27,903 ($46 per acre). The reason the cost/acre was so low is 500 acres was a roller-chopping practice which is very cost effective. The monies available for homeowner defensible space cost share were capped at $50,000 in 2003, so CSFS supplemented their cost share money with funds leftover from 2002. The decrease in acres treated in 2003 results from a greater emphasis placed on defensible space work over fuel breaks.

Most people find out about the cost-share program through their local fire departments and neighbors that are doing treatments with cost-share money or through the Red Cross program. ARC hands out 50/50 cost share d-space applications when they do their programs and then it is up to the CSFS to follow up. Word of mouth has been the most effective method. People interested in the cost share are referred to CSFS for the 50/50-match money. CSFS does the follow-up inspection to be sure it meets their standards. CSFS sends applications to interested people, does a site visit to determine if fuels treatment is necessary, explains the program, helps line up a contractor if the landowner doesn't want to do the work themselves, then inspects the treatment afterwards to ensure it meets the standards before approving cost-share payment. Several landowners have decided after they started that they didn't want to do the treatment to standard and they were not given cost-sharing. "We make it very clear in the beginning that this is not a 'property clean-up' program; they will have to cut live trees, not just dead ones, and if they don't do it to the standard they will not get cost-sharing."

 



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