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Routt County prepares for wildfires

Commissioners accept wildfire protection plan draft Monday

John Twitchell, district forester for the Colorado State Forest Service, talks about the about the community wildfire plan during Monday’s commissioners meeting. Cheryl Dalton, emergency management administrative assistant for the county, also attended the meeting.
John F. Russell





John Twitchell, district forester for the Colorado State Forest Service, talks about the about the community wildfire plan during Monday’s commissioners meeting. Cheryl Dalton, emergency management administrative assistant for the county, also attended the meeting.
John F. Russell

— If a wildfire of the magnitude of the Hinman or Big Fish fires of 2002 ever strikes Routt County again, firefighters will have more information at hand to help guide decisions about how to employ their assets in accordance with community goals.

The Routt County Board of Commissioners accepted a draft of the Routt County Community Wildfire Protection Plan on Monday in the form of a heavy three-ring binder.

“If there ever is a fire like that, the fire team is going to want to look at this,” John Twitchell, of the Colorado State Forest Service, told the commissioners. “It details evacuation systems, and that’s important to the fire team. And it identifies key areas to protect, the Hahn’s Peak Historic District, for example, that local people want to protect.”



Twitchell gave credit to his colleague, Bart Brown, for his extensive work on the plan, but he added that his agency acted in a consulting role to local fire protection districts to support the development of a plan that took their particular needs into account.

Commissioner Doug Monger said the involvement of emergency and fire officials from Oak Creek, North Routt, West Routt and Steamboat Springs, along with local, state and federal government was important.

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“The plan has the flexibility to allow different fire districts to plan for their needs and focus on their issues,” Monger said.

At the same time, the plan is consistent with the overarching federal Healthy Forest Restoration Act of 2003 and Colorado law passed in 2009 that calls for the creation of County Community Wildfire Protection Plans.

Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush pointed out that people in North Routt particularly are concerned about the amount of dead timber in a roadless area along Willow Creek and the challenge of removing that potential fuel for a wildfire.

Twitchell said the broader plan has accomplished things the fire districts cannot do by themselves, such as filling in critical information about conditions between the North Routt District and the Wyoming state line, where there are buildings and widely spread people pursuing recreation.

The draft Routt County Com­munity Fire Protection Plan puts the county well ahead of its neighbors, Twitchell said, by providing an overview of wildland fuel conditions, ways to reduce the potential impacts of a wildland fire and by recommending strategies.

Cheryl Dalton, of Routt Cou­nty Emergency Management, said the goal of the team working on the plan is to present it in its final form by mid-September.


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