Homeowners banding together to stave off prospect of fire
SUMMIT COUNTY – A group of homeowners in one of Summit County’s most exclusive neighborhoods is banding together to fight the prospect of fire. Their tools: muscle and money.
Homeowners in Ruby Ranch are clearing their own properties and many acres of common property of long-accumulated dead wood. Many of them also are buying fire retardant that can be sprayed on the walls of the houses if a fire is imminent.
Ruby Ranch is a gated 475-acre community of 38 homes, with lots ranging from three to 25 acres, west of Silverthorne. There is only one road in and out of the heavily wooded development; that road splits into two streets that dead-end at the top of the development. Home values there average more than $1 million.
The fire mitigation effort has taken on a more serious tone this year, but it began a few years ago.
Lisa Winn said she and her husband, Calvin, began clearing their lot three years ago when they moved into their home.
“We’ve all got a ton of dead wood down in piles and piles,” Winn said. “Nobody’s ever done anything. We’ve taken all the dead trees down, sorted them, made piles of firewood and given a lot of it away. Now, you can actually walk in our back yard.”
Pat Tormey is helping to coordinate the fire mitigation efforts, which don’t stop at individual property lines. Not only is the development adjacent to a wilderness, but when the subdivision was built 40 years ago, piles of wood were left in the forested areas that surround the homes. Homeowners are working together to stack and remove that wood.
“There is a tremendous amount of fuel behind Ruby Ranch in the forest,” Tormey said. “We started becoming very aware of our wildfire danger four or five years ago, so we’ve started a multi-pronged attack.
“This year, people are hysterical. It is significantly drier this year. It’s the first year the reservoir has looked like this. It’s in the media every single day. Our second-home owners are hearing about it where they are.”
Homeowners have asked local fire authorities for advice on the situation. Since then, they’ve gone to work.
“Each homeowner is doing what they can to remove the dead trees, piles of slash,” Tormey said. “If a crown fire comes, there’s nothing anybody can do about anything. But if a ground fire comes, if you remove the fuels, the fire will move very, very slowly and the fire department can deal with it.
“My husband and I have been working on our particular yard for four years. We also given away a lot of firewood to locals. Last year, we must have given away 80 cords of wood. The alternative is you bury it in the landfill.”
Several of the homeowners are paying between $500 and $1,000 for fire retardants that can be sprayed on a structure’s exterior to protect it.
“The way most of us look at it is this is another form of insurance,” said Jeff Bork, another Ruby Ranch homeowner. “It has a shelf life of at least five years, so if you invest $500, that’s $100 a year. To some of us, that seems to be a reasonable price to pay.”
Ryan Egan, of Rocky Mountain Fire and Safety, sells one of those products – Nochar, a water-based retardant that is sprayed on a structure with a garden hose attachment. It costs about $1,000 to protect most houses with it.
Demand for the product, he said, has been high.
“We’re running all over the place,” he said. “But one-thousand dollars is a cheap insurance policy.”
Jane Reuter can be reached at 668-3998, ext. 229, or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
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