Community Agriculture Alliance: Updated guide helps homeowners prepare property for wildfire
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
More than half of all Coloradans live in the wildland-urban interface, where homes and other structures meet wildland vegetation, and are at some risk of being affected by wildfire.
The WUI includes more than homes in the forest. Homes adjacent to wildland fuels, even within nonforested subdivisions, can burn during a wildfire due to ember showers. Colorado is primed to face the same types of large, uncharacteristic wildfires as it did in 2020.
Below-average snowpack in the mountains and ongoing drought in Colorado could set the stage for another challenging wildfire season this year. An updated guide from the Colorado State Forest Service can help residents prepare their home and property for wildfire with practical steps and guidance: The Home Ignition Zone.
The Home Ignition Zone guide informs homeowners on how to address structures at risk and the area around them. Wildfires play a natural role in Colorado’s environment, and residents can increase the likelihood their home survives a fire by minimizing the ability for it to ignite, in part by reducing nearby fuels. Homeowners can complete a number of practical steps to protect their home and property from wildfire. Start at your home and work your way out.
• Address structural ignitability — including both flammable building materials and the risks posed by dead pine needles on roofs or firewood stacked on or under decks — before doing anything else, then work progressively outward by reducing fuels to create defensible space.
• The ability of your home to survive a wildfire depends in part on the home ignition zone (HIZ), which includes both the condition of the structure and the space immediately surrounding it. Think of embers landing on and around your house, and not necessarily a wall of fire coming at it.
• Fuels in the HIZ can include vegetation like trees, brush and grass, but when near homes, fuels also include propane tanks, woodpiles, sheds and even homes themselves.
• Maintaining the HIZ is not a one-time effort. After hardening your home and creating defensible space, annual maintenance is essential to maintain effectiveness. An HIZ checklist is available in the new guide, which includes tips like mowing tall grasses, pruning shrubs and clearing debris from roofs and gutters.
• While maintaining the HIZ can help save your own home from wildfire, it also helps lower the risk of a wildfire spreading to neighbors’ property or surrounding land.
Coloradans are encouraged to review the guide and work to reduce their wildfire risk. As the guide states, “Firefighters always do their best to protect residents, but ultimately, it is your responsibility to protect your property and investments from wildfire.”
The guide also can be a valuable resource for homeowners associations, fire departments, insurance agents, local governments and others who work with residents and communities to reduce their wildfire risk.
To get the guide, or for further assistance preparing for wildfires, contact your Steamboat Springs CSFS field office at 970-879-0475, or download a digital copy from the CSFS website at bit.ly/cohomeignitionzone.
More information about wildfire mitigation also is available at CSFS.ColoState.edu/wildfire-mitigation.
Carolina Manriquez is a forester with the Colorado State Forest Service in the Steamboat Springs Field Office.
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