Start planning for fire danger |

Start planning for fire danger

Reid Williams

SUMMIT COUNTY<With one wildfire already burning in the state, local fire officers are expecting an early and long season of high fire danger. Homeowners can take steps now, however, to reduce the risk of fire damage, officials say.Summit County1s fire chiefs and Sheriff Joe Morales are preparing for a summer of drought conditions. They hope to raise awareness among homeowners and wilderness users about defense of their homes and responsible behavior around fuel sources.3We don1t want to be in a reactive mode, said Snake River Fire Protection District Chief Dave Parmley. 3We don1t want to alarm people, but it1s important they understand the heightened level of concern we have.Firefighters currently are battling a 250-acre wildfire in Pike National Forest in Park County. Fire experts said they won1t be surprised to see more fires as summer approaches. Snowpack is at about one-third of average, meaning the fuel in forests will dry out without more snow or rain. Morales, the county1s statutory fire marshal, said he and the fire chiefs are paying close attention to weather trends.At this point, the fire chiefs expect severe restrictions on controlled public and private burns. They urge property owners with large piles of slash to get their burning done before the end of the month.Morales said he and the fire chiefs completed the county1s fire plan, or response protocols, last month. He said he feels confident in the fire departments1 preparation and has great faith in the firefighters.3We1re in pretty good shape operationally<we have plans and commitments in place, Morales said. 3And we have solid professionals with an understanding of managing wildfire who have a good, cooperative relationship.Homeowners can defend against fire risk with help from the fire departments. Grant money from the National Forest Plan and Summit Fire Authority was awarded to local fire departments to pay for fuel reduction projects, such as removal of trees and slash. Summit County Wildfire Mitigation Officer Patti Maguire is inviting homeowners to apply for fire defense projects.Homeowners1 applications will be reviewed considering factors such as fire risk and the owner1s ability to complete the work themselves, Maguire said, and she will inspect the properties. The defensible space guidelines generally include clearing trees within 10 feet of a home and additional thinning of surrounding vegetation up to a distance of 100 feet. Trees that need to be removed will be cut by a tree service contractor. Homeowners will be required to contribute 25 percent of the cost, roughly $40 per hour; the time required for the project varies according to the property. Residents also should check with their homeowners association for any restrictive covenants related to tree removal.3The project will follow the guidelines of fire mitigation code, Maguire said. 3So we1re not doing landscaping<they can1t pick and choose which trees go. It1s about creating that buffer zone, and it1s very important for those homes that interface with public lands.Red, White and Blue Fire District public information officer Kim O1Brien added homeowners also can help firefighters by making sure house numbers are visible from the road. Other tips are available in a variety of literature available at all fire departments.Reid Williams can be reached at (970) 668-3998 ext. 237 or

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