Summit County has been chosen to join a select group of pilot communities across the country that are leading the way in wildfire mitigation and adaptation, according to a county news release.
On March 31, the Fire Adapted Communities Network welcomed the Summit County Wildfire Council as a “hub organization,” holding the county up as a model for the development of best practices and innovations in safely living with fire.
FAC encourages the development and sharing of strategies to accelerate the adoption of fire adapted community concepts nationwide, the release stated. It supports hub organizations and pilot communities that have committed to implementing, assessing and sharing the work they’re doing to increase resilience to wildfire.
The network is managed by the Watershed Research and Training Center and The Nature Conservancy, with support from the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Department of the Interior.
The Summit County Wildfire Council, comprised of representatives from the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado State Forest Service, Summit County Government, Summit County’s local fire protection districts and municipalities, and residents of each of the county’s four river basins, coordinates Summit County’s efforts to adapt to the risks of wildfire and to reduce wildland fire hazards, the release stated. The council is now one of 18 Fire Adapted Communities Network hub organizations nationwide.
“Our acceptance into the Fire Adapted Communities Network is well deserved recognition of the fire mitigation work our residents and partners have undertaken,” said Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs, who chairs the wildfire council, in a news release. “All our partners are deeply committed to helping landowners and communities in the wildland urban interface adapt to living with wildfire.
“By creating defensible space and landscape-scale fuel breaks, we are doing what it takes to be responsible residents in this fire-dependent ecosystem.”
The wildfire council uses the Summit County Community Wildfire Protection Plan to identify and prioritize implementation of wildfire-related activities. Through continued action via this local coordinated effort, Summit County is becoming increasingly fire adapted, the release stated.
During the past several years, Summit County Wildfire Council’s participating agencies have completed a variety of selective forest management projects, with additional projects planned for the future, as outlined in the plan.
“The resulting mosaic of different ages and species of trees will set the stage for resilient forests of today and tomorrow,” said Dan Schroder, Summit County CSU Extension director, in the release.
Fire-adapted communities reduce the risk of catastrophic wildfires by preparing in advance of the threat, the release stated. Actions address resident safety, homes, neighborhoods, businesses, infrastructure, forests, parks, open spaces and other community assets.
As a member of the Fire Adapted Communities Network, the Summit County Wildfire Council will participate in an ongoing dialogue of successes and learning opportunities gained from the 17 other hub organizations. In addition to sharing Summit County’s own strategies and solutions, the wildfire council will have the opportunity to learn from other leaders across the country, with potential to enhance community protection strategies for Summit County and its residents.
During the past three years, Colorado has suffered increasingly devastating wildfire events. From public health and homeowner’s insurance to protection and salvage, wildfires cause an incredible amount of damage to land, communities and homes.
“In addition to fire and smoke damage to homes, infrastructure and land, there is also a huge financial toll on communities,” said Lake Dillon Fire-Rescue Deputy Chief Jeff Berino in the release. “Preparing for wildfires in advance can reduce the economic hardships they can cause and help our communities to be more resilient.”
As homeowners build homes farther into natural habitats, they become more susceptible to wildfires. Extended droughts, climate change, hot summers, earlier snowmelt and untreated hazardous fuels are major factors that exacerbate wildfire conditions.
“The cooperating partners of Summit County Wildfire Council and the Fire Adapted Communities Network ask residents and businesses to do their part to be wildfire prepared,” Schroder said in the release.