Wildfire Mitigation Council’s new director has long to-do list | SteamboatToday.com

Wildfire Mitigation Council’s new director has long to-do list

The first executive director for the Routt County Wildfire Mitigation Council, Josh Hankes, shown here during a volunteer tree planting day on Elkhead Creek earlier this year, has his hands full with a long and important to-do list for the council.
Josh Hankes/Courtesy photo

As the first employee and executive director of the formerly all-volunteer Routt County Wildfire Mitigation Council, Josh Hankes is tackling a long and important to-do list.

“All the background work has been done, and it’s time for action,” Hankes said. “The work that this council has done as an all-volunteer group is just tremendous. A more wide-stream public awareness campaign is in order to educate the public on the threat of wildfire and the steps that individuals and communities can take to minimize the risk.”

The former New Jersey resident and president of an industrial contracting firm said he was ready for a new chapter in his career working for a nonprofit organization that contributes in the environment. Hankes and his wife and two children moved to Steamboat Springs in August.

“His experience running a business will be a real asset to the council and will help us to scale up and more effectively pursue our goals,” Chuck Cerasoli, Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue chief and wildfire council vice chair, said of Hankes.

Hankes was hired in time to jump in during four community input meetings conducted in mid-November to gather public input for the update of the 10-year-old Routt County Community Wildfire Protection Plan. Some 90 people attended the meetings across the county.

“In North and South Routt where there has been significant wildfire activity, people showed up and were definitely engaged,” Hankes said.

More residents are encouraged to complete an online survey through the end of December to provide input. The survey can be found at RouttWildfire.org under the “Resources” tab and then the “Community Wildfire” drop-down section.

Residents asked to take wildfire protection survey

The Routt County Wildfire Mitigation Council encourages residents to complete an online survey through the end of December to provide input for the current update of the Routt County Community Wildfire Protection Plan. The survey can be found on the council’s website at RouttWildfire.org under the Resources tab and then the Community Wildfire drop-down section.

Contractor Jensen Hughes, an international fire protection engineering company, was selected in August to oversee the plan update. A draft of the wildfire protection plan is expected in time for discussions during the Wildfire Mitigation Council’s fourth annual Routt County Wildfire Mitigation Conference set for April 28-29. Hankes said the final update should be complete by July.

Formed in May 2019, the Wildfire Mitigation Council includes county and city representatives, nongovernmental organizations, homeowner association and business representatives, private landowners, and local, state and federal officials.

The council’s mission is to create resilient, fire-adapted communities to minimize potential impacts of wildfire. The council works to facilitate fuels reduction by coordinating with stakeholders to address the risk at the landscape level including working with neighborhoods and to provide resources, information and learning opportunities for individual landowners.

Hankes said his goal in his new role is to use his background in developing and growing a business organization “to harness all the subject matter experts and key stakeholders and develop the council into an organization that can run self-sustainably and really have a great impact.”

Funding for the Community Wildfire Protection Plan comes from the City of Steamboat Springs and Routt County as well other state mitigation and federal FEMA funds. Bureau of Land Management funds helped to support the new director role, Hankes said.

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With tax preparation season upcoming, Hankes reminded that Colorado tax laws allow a credit on state income tax for qualifying costs of performing wildfire mitigation measures on properties within the wildland-urban interface.

The Colorado Department of Revenue Taxation Division website notes that individuals, estates and trusts may claim a tax subtraction for mitigation work performed on properties they own.

For more information on wildfire preparedness, as well as a list of landowner assistance programs in Colorado offered by state and federal agencies, visit RouttWildfire.org.

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