Thomas Welle

Partnerships for reducing wildfire risk in common areas

Blog Post created by Thomas Welle on Sep 4, 2015

We often get questions around how to reduce fire danger in common areas such as greenbelts, open space and such.  Partnerships are one way that worked for the Antlers Homeowner’s Association (HOA) in Colorado.

Prior to coming to NFPA, I was the senior Ranger/Land Manager for Douglas County Open Space.  One of my many responsibilities was forest management on County owned lands.  One of these was approximately 6 acres of heavily forested land that adjoined another 7 acres in the same condition owned by the Antlers HOA.

Most forested areas along the Colorado Front Range consist of overgrown Ponderosa Pine stands.  In Douglas County, just south of Denver, Gambel oak, a woody shrub, adds a ladder fuel component which increases crown fire potential.  Due to suppressing wildfires for over 150 years, these stands have become thick with regeneration of Ponderosa Pines and heavy bands of Gambel oak in the understory.                          

Kristin Garrison, District Forester for the Colorado State Forest Service, (CSFS), and Jill Alexander, Douglas County Wildfire Mitigation Specialist, were working with Barb Harbach of the Antlers HOA on their CWPP and began discussions of treating their 7 acre HOA open space.  Since the 6 acres the County owned is adjacent and identified for treatment, they began working with Open Space on how they could partner on the joint treatment.  However, cost was a barrier.

The State of Colorado Department of Natural Resources put out three grant opportunities for a total of $9.8 million to be used for Wildfire Risk Reduction.  Douglas County obtained one of these grants and that money was used for the County’s portion of this project and the Antlers HOA was able to apply for a grant from CSFS for their portion.

Douglas County staff and CSFS put together a plan with the goals of improving forest health, increasing forest resiliency to fire, insects and drought, and to reduce wildfire risk by thinning trees to increase crown spacing and removing some Gambel oak to reduce ladder fuels.

Capture Antlers pics

A contractor was selected to do both parcels but was paid from the two different grants.  The work went far to reduce wildfire risk and improve the resiliency of the natural resources.  Ms. Harbach said, “We could not have accomplished this project without the help and support of Larkspur Fire, Douglas County and the Colorado State Forest Service”.  “The support we received was outstanding….in order to complete the mitigation project the right way”.     

This type of private/public partnership is just one way communities can embrace living less dangerously from wildfire.  Communities can partner with each other, with their local fire department and with their local government to significantly reduce their risk from wildland fires.

Using partnerships to reduce our risk, we make our communities, our firefighters, and ourselves safer from wildand fires. 

(Photo credit: Jill Alexander)

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