We often hear how being Firewise is a shared responsibility. It’s when we as homeowners and communities team up with our fire services and natural resource managers to manage our risks. Many homeowners are recognizing responsibility starts with them and their neighbors. But, they know they can’t go it alone. The scope of the wildfire problem is too big and affects too many people for one homeowner to solve the problem.
Cedar Heights, a Firewise Communities/USA site in Colorado Springs affected by the recent Waldo Canyon Fire, recognized it had a problem several years ago. Concerned residents contacted the Colorado Springs Fire Department to figure out how they could get started. Fortunately for Cedar Heights, CSFD has one of the best Firewise programs in the nation. CSFD leadership recognized over ten years ago that many homes had been constructed in wildfire prone areas. An initial inventory identified over 45,000 homes at risk.
The partnership that Cedar Heights formed with CSFD paid off during the Waldo Canyon Fire. Fuel treatment projects in community open spaces west of the community slowed down the approaching wildfire and allowed limited air resources and hand crews to keep the fire in check. I visited the area last week and saw how the wildfire burned right up to the edge of the treated areas. Spot fires occurred over the containment line, but were quickly and more effectively contained due to the treated fuels where the embers landed. Other examples of Cedar Heights fuel treatment projects can be viewed here.
Other projects included evacuation drills and community chipping days. Cedar Heights was recognized as a Firewise Community in 2008 in partnership with CSFD. A complete list of Firewise Communities/USA and how your neighborhood can become a Firewise Community is available at www.firewise.org/usa.
Photo captions: Top - Andrew Notbohm, CSFD Firewise Program Manager explains to Jean Blaisdell of Ridgewood FWC how recent fuel treatments helped to protect Cedar Heights. Bottom: Cedar Heights fuel treatment area with burned area on left. Notice the scorched junipers.