Durango has made national headlines this week as the 416 Fire has erupted just north of town. This fire is the stark reminder that it’s crucial to employ fire mitigation strategies, especially if you live in an area that is surrounded by forest. Many local properties border undeveloped land, or contain high levels of trees and brush, thus creating flammable environments.
What is wildfire mitigation? This is the idea that the homeowner/resident takes certain precautionary steps to minimize potential damage from a wildfire. This can occur before, during, or after a wildfire. According to the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS), there are two primary areas to consider: creating defensible space around a structure, and the structural ignitability.
The defensible space is the area around a home that has been modified to minimize wildfire damage. In general, the CSFS breaks this area into three zones that span 100 feet away from the structure. Action steps include: thinning trees and brush near the structure (removing any flammable vegetation within 15 feet of the structure), mowing dry grass and weeds to a height of less than six inches (for at least 30 feet away from the structure), and disposing of all debris from thinning or chipping. In addition, the CSFS suggests removing branches near chimneys, cleaning pine needles and debris from roofs and gutters, storing firewood at least 30 feet away from structures, and moving liquefied petroleum gas tanks and fuel storage to at least 30 feet away from structures. This list is not exhaustive; for a detailed outline, take a look at this resource from the CSFS: https://static.colostate.edu/client-files/csfs/pdfs/wholenotebook.pdf
Considering the structural ignitability is most beneficial when a structure is built; however, it’s always possible to evaluate and modify this. The CSFS offers a full publication with information on appropriate roofing materials and other fire-resistant building designs: https://static.colostate.edu/client-files/csfs/pdfs/firewise-construction2012.pdf. FEMA suggests this resource as a guide to wildfire mitigation: http://disastersafety.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/09/wildfire_rockymountain-guide.pdf. It also offers information on the various areas of a structure, such as windows, doors, siding, and decks and patios, and what you can do and should know.
Wildfire mitigation is a process, as homeowners and residents should regularly clear the area of any items that could be considered fire fuel. As we have seen this week, it is vital to take the time to ensure our homes are best prepared for a scenario where a wildfire may approach. We strongly encourage all of our clients to take the time to read through these resources, and utilize any of the tips that pertain to you. As the 416 Fire continues, our thoughts and prayers go out to all who have been impacted, and we are so thankful for those who fight the fire in order to protect our land and property.