Community Agriculture Alliance: Are you prepared for wildfire? |

Community Agriculture Alliance: Are you prepared for wildfire?

Todd Hagenbuch
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
An agricultural burn got out of control near the base of Sleeping Giant in 2017. Routt County residents have the opportunity to learn more about wildfire preparedness at the inaugural Routt County Wildfire Conference on May 11.
Matt Stensland

Whether you live on a ranch, a small acreage or in town, one thing you can count on if you live in Routt County is that wildfire will affect you sooner or later. 

It doesn’t have to be at your back door to make an impact on your life. It doesn’t even have to be within sight to cause you problems. And that’s why it’s important for you to be prepared and to plan for the inevitable. 

Forest health, water quality and drought are all inexplicably tied to one another. Last year’s drought — and the droughts of 2002 and 2012 — had lasting effects on forest health. Unhealthy forests change the way snowpack and runoff behave.

Earlier snowmelt leads to increased chances for wildfire activity. Fires further impact forest health and the quality of water that flows through our valley. Water quality and quantity issues impact every user in the river system, which includes you.

If you haven’t been impacted yet by a wildfire, chances are good that you soon will be. Recent data shows with a changing climate, fires will become more frequent in numbers, duration and damage.

Already we have seen several records broken in recent years for the number of acres burned in a season, dollars of damage caused by wildfire and number of homes and lives lost due to wildfire activity. As warmer temperatures lead to potentially drier conditions, we can expect more records to be broken as wildfire activity increases.

Knowing how you can protect yourself from and prepare our community for a wildfire is the topic of the inaugural Routt County Wildfire Conference scheduled for noon Saturday, May 11, at Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs.

We will explore how individuals, neighborhoods and entire communities can better plan for and reduce the threat of wildfire by working to decrease fire’s ability to start and spread. We will also discuss how to more effectively manage our response when, not if, wildfire comes and learn from neighboring counties how the work they’ve done has protected not only homes but entire communities.

If you go

What: Routt County Wildfire Mitigation Conference
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 11
Where: Allbright Auditorium, Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs, 1275 Crawford Avenue

To learn more and register for the conference, visit Lunch will be provided for the first 200 registrants.

Whether you live in Elk River Estates, Tree Haus, Willow Creek Pass, Blacktail Estates or Eagle’s Watch, you’re at risk of a wildfire impacting your home.

Ranchers who rely on water from the forest for irrigation of hay or livestock watering, mountain bikers who recreate on trails in forested lands, hunters looking for their next trophy, townspeople who love their view — we’re all impacted by wildfire and need to work together to plan for it. Plan on joining the conversation by registering at

Todd Hagenbuch is the Ag/Natural Resources Extension Agent for Colorado State University in Routt County.

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