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Overland Fire
Stand of burned trees on steep slope

Overland Fire

On October 29, 2003, high winds were blowing across the Colorado Front Range in the approach of an autumn cold front. In the vicinity of Jamestown, those winds broke a 20-foot tall tree, which was blown into a 13,200 volt power line. That line snapped, crashed into the ground sparking a wildland fire. The fire grew quickly due to the combination of high winds, steep topography of the area, and the density of the forest. In just the one day, the fire burned 3,500 acres and destroyed 12 homes. While there was no loss of life, there were a number of close calls.

Firefighters and emergency response personnel were initially powerless to stop the spread of the fire. Instead they had to oversee evacuations of residents and structural defense of homes in Jamestown and Lefthand canyon. By late afternoon attempts to burnout areas in front of the approaching wild fire and hold control lines proved successful. By the next the day, the cold front had come through, and the storm system that had driven the fire had effectively put it out with a combination of high humidity, sleet, and frigid temperatures. Limited mop-up operations occurred for the next several days. Evacuees were let back into their homes.

A significant revegetation and erosion control effort followed the next spring, including aerial mulching of severely burned areas, and hazard tree felling along key roadways. Despite the work, several rainstorms caused significant flood events, sending water and debris flowing into Jamestown, causing additional damage and requiring more cleanup efforts.

Rebuilding efforts for the individuals who lost home ranged into hundreds of thousands of dollars. As an example of lessons learned from other events like the Black Tiger Fire, the adoption of stricter building codes resulted in at least one structure that was able to withstand the wildfire without significant intervention on the part of firefighters or the homeowner. And while there was some damage from flooding and debris, the emergency rehabilitation work likely resulted in less overall losses and enabled eventual reestablishment of vegetation in the area.

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Wildfire Mitigation and Forest Health

Email: wildfiremitigation@bouldercounty.org
Main: 303-441-3930

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2045 13th Street
Boulder, CO 80302
Hours are Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., and on Tuesday from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
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Community Planning & Permitting
Wildfire Mitigation and Forest Health
PO Box 471
Boulder, CO 80306