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July 29, 2016

Media Contact
Jim Webster, Wildfire Partners/
Boulder County Land Use
720-564-2600

Boulder County Wildfire Mitigation and Forest Health Newsletter – July 29, 2016

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Forest Health News

Today’s newsletter covers the following:

  • Cold Springs Fire
  • Homeowner Success Stories
  • Firewood Sales on July 31 and August 7
  • Raffle Winner: Catherine Von Hatten

Please forward this newsletter to individuals, groups and organizations you know who may be interested.

Tip of the Day: Mitigate Today

Cold Springs Fire Incident Commander Michael Smith said, "What we need is people to do mitigation around their homes, the mitigation on this house (2607 Ridge Road) is what saved it, they thinned the trees, they built with proper materials and they really did their homework before they left."

The home at 2607 Ridge Road northeast of Nederland, Colorado, survived the Cold Springs Fire with only minor damage, due in large part to construction requirements and wildfire mitigation from Boulder County’s planning and building codes.

2607 Ridge Road northeast of Nederland, Colorado, survived the Cold Springs Fire

Cold Springs Fire

The
headline of the Cold Springs Fire was proclaimed by The Mountain-Ear on
July 14 as “Firefighters win!” The subheadline of the fire is
“Mitigation wins too!”

Mountain Ear fron page, July 14, 2016

Front page of The Mountain-Ear newspaper on July 14, 2016.

Seeing
homes standing untouched by a wildfire—even though they are surrounded
by destroyed structures and burned vegetation—can be so surreal that
some people want to declare these scenes as miracles. In fact, these
homes are still standing thanks to hard work—performed by homeowners
completing mitigation measures before fires occur and by firefighters
suppressing the fire as it burns.

In
and around the Cold Springs Fire perimeter, there is a long list of
“saves,” homes that survived the fire. All residents in the region are
indebted to the firefighters who protected and saved so many homes. From
the mitigation perspective, all eight Wildfire Partners homes within
the burn perimeter survived intact
as well as all 13 homes that were
constructed in compliance with the county’s wildfire mitigation building
code requirements. The fact that none of these mitigated homes were
destroyed is an important story that needs to be told. Dozens of
additional Wildfire Partners homeowners who were evacuated received
benefits from their mitigation work simply by knowing that they had
acted responsibly and prepared their structures in advance.

During
the Cold Springs Fire, firefighters were able to do structure prep on a
number of homes that were not already mitigated—trying to create
non-combustible zones around structures; moving large firewood piles,
pine needles, wood mulch, deck furniture and other items away from
homes; and cutting down and limbing trees right up against structures.
On many other fires, firefighters do not have the time to do this work.
Their message is clear—homeowners need to take responsibility and
mitigate their homes in advance with the assistance of programs like
Wildfire Partners.

According
to Jay Stalnacker, Boulder County’s Fire Management Officer, “Mountain
and foothills homeowners have a direct responsibility to maintain and
prepare their homes and property for a wildfire. When homeowners and
government can collaborate as a community to both restore natural
ecosystems and create defensible wildfire mitigation, both the
environment and homeowners benefit. Wildfire Partners is an example of
this effort and the results are obvious as you look at the post fire
effects of the Cold Springs Fire. The mitigation created defensible
space for firefighters to safely work in and ultimately helped create a
more natural and healthy looking forest.”

National
mitigation expert Pat Durland stresses that "Home loss to wildfires is a
solvable issue, and programs like Wildfire Partners help folks
understand and act to make that happen. It’s NOT a miracle or luck, it’s
the process of combustion, and if we manage the fuels, combustion is
interrupted and we win!"

Homeowner Mitigation Success Stories

Wildfire
Partners homeowners have success stories to tell because they performed
comprehensive mitigation that often entailed many hours of hard work
and hundreds of dollars of expense. Wildfire Partners homeowners spend
an average of 60 hours and $2,400 performing mitigation and receive an
average of $700 in financial assistance from the program.

The
following homeowners have important stories to tell of how their
efforts were worth it and how mitigation and Wildfire Partners helped
save their homes.

David and Trise (Patricia) Ruskay

Over
the last few years, David and Trise Ruskay have been thinning and
taking lower limbs off all the trees around his house, removing about 30
pine and spruce trees. They removed juniper and kinnikinnick bushes
completely in that 30 foot range as well. The Ruskay’s performed his
mitigation with the advice of Wildfire Partners.

David Ruskay

David Ruskay holds his Wildfire Partners yard sign during a visit from Wildfire Partners Mitigation Specialist Andrew Notbohm on July 21, 2016. David, whose home was certified by Wildfire Partners in 2016, credits the wildfire mitigation work he did with helping the firefighters save his home during the Cold Springs Fire.

As
the flames steamed up his driveway, David ran along with Timberline and
Nederland firefighter and only had about five minutes to take what he
could. “I returned expecting to see very little left of our home and
gorgeous property. What I found was a 360 degree 50 foot swath all the
way around the house in which there sat a green island, our house
untouched in the middle of it and black everywhere beyond that line.”

David
is clear. He did not save his home from this fire. “Local, not so local
and not even close to local firefighters saved it. They risked life and
limb to make sure my wife Trise and I had a place to return to. All I
did was help them make it happen.”

“For
those of my close neighbors that lost all, I am so very sorry. They
need our help and support and are sure to get it. Those that survived
can thank their consistent and diligent mitigation and all the agencies
that were fearless and brilliant in their attack.”

David’s
advice, “Invest the time and money necessary to automatically produce
the most successful outcome possible. I can’t describe adequately how
great it feels to be home again safe and sound.”

Robert Lanham

Bob
Lanham has been working on mitigation of his mountain home for many
years and received his Wildfire Partners Certificate in 2015. His
mitigation worked perfectly, ground fires stopped about 20 feet from the
structure and trees burned within about 100 feet. He saw this exact
fire coming 10 years ago and implemented a very specific and targeted
mitigation program for when that day arrived.

According
to Bob, his story “would make a true believer out of any mountain
homeowner of the value of fire mitigation.” When he purchased the home,
it suffered from 30 years of benign neglect and was a fire waiting to
happen—wood shingles, lumber stacked under the wood decks, and dense
conifers overhanging the home.

Bob’s
house was ground zero. The fire burned across half of his yard on the
south side of the house. It stopped at the point where he’d earlier
raked the grass down to bare dirt, removing accumulated pine needles and
aspen leaves. He said it was “a lot of work, but worth it.”

Bob’s
was the only surviving home of the three adjacent properties on
Sherwood Road. He believes his neighbors’ homes would have survived if
they had mitigated to the extent he did. One of his neighbors just
bought his house and hadn’t even moved in yet. He was planning to join
Wildfire Partners and work on mitigation; he just didn’t have enough
time.

Bob
said that one thing that probably saved his home, in addition to his
mitigation efforts, was the selfless actions of Charles Schmittmann, a
captain with the Nederland Fire Protection District. Bob was unable to
get to his residence before the mandatory evacuation, leaving his garage
door open to blowing embers. Charles checked on homes as the fire swept
through the neighborhood and closed the garage door. At the same time
he was doing this, his own home fell victim to the fire and was totally
destroyed.

Lester Karplus

On
Lester’s property, the fire came dangerously close to all of his
buildings, yet none burned. Two of his neighbors lost their homes.
Nederland Fire Chief, Rick Dirr told Lester that his mitigation really
helped save the property and they did assign assets to protect it.
According to Boulder County’s Fire Operations Specialist Seth McKinney,
Lester’s home was “very well mitigated.”

Lester Karplus credits the wildfire mitigation work he did with helping to save his home during the Cold Springs Fire. On Lester’s property, the fire came dangerously close to all of his buildings, yet none burned.

Lester Karplus

Lester
stated, “Fire was going to happen. It was a question of when, not if. I
feel after this fire that I should have gone further in my mitigation
efforts, but I really didn’t understand how the fire was going to react.
I did my basic stuff, but not extra. It was a lot of hours and money,
but it was worth it. My lesson from this experience was that we will
build the buffers even bigger.”

Firewood Sales for July 31 and August 7

We
need your help! Boulder County has over 200 cords of firewood we need
to sell before winter. We are charging $10 per truck load of wood. To
purchase a ticket or to sign up for email alerts to be notified about
new sales, visit bouldercounty.gov/os/openspace/pages/forestrysales.aspx. Tickets can go fast!

Raffle Winner!

For taking part in our survey from last month’s newsletter, Catherine Von Hatten is the winner of the $100 gift card!

Cheers,

Rick, Kyle, Chris and Jim

Boulder County Land Use Department

303-441-3930

WildfireMitigation@bouldercounty.org