As more people choose to build homes, operate businesses and recreate in areas where wildlands border more urban areas, the threat to private property from wildland fire increases. Creating "defensible" or "survivable" space around structures can make the difference between returning to an intact home or a smoldering pile of ashes if a wildfire moves through the area.
Neither wildland firefighting agencies nor local fire departments can adequately protect the growing number of structures in interface areas. It is critical that private landowners take steps on their own to protect their property. There are now many local resources available to assist property owners in mitigating the threat of fire.
West Region Wildfire Council
The West Region Wildfire Council offers assistance and grants to homeowners for fuels reduction projects that decrease the threats to their residences. The Council provides grants at a 75/25 match. The council will pay for 75% of the project if the homeowner can pay the remaining 25%. The West Region Wildfire Council has provided this service to hundreds of homeowners across the West Region of Colorado including in Delta County. in 2016 the West Region Wildfire Council completed an assessment of all residences within the Wildland/Urban Interface and rated their fire risk. Here is that link to the Community Wildfire Protection Plan and your homes individual assessment.
The West Region Wildfire Council (WRWC) promotes wildfire preparedness, prevention and mitigation education throughout Delta, Gunnison, Hinsdale, Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel Counties. The WRWC's mission is to mitigate loss due to wildfire in wildland urban interface communities while fostering interagency partnerships to help prepare counties, fire protection districts, communities and agencies to plan for and mitigate potential threats from wildfire.
WRWC members include private citizens, local, county, state, and federal agencies with an interest in, and a commitment to addressing wildfire risk across the region. The WRWC provides communities with education about wildfire risk, assists with the development of wildfire planning initiatives and encourages homeowner risk reduction actions through implementing strategic fuels reduction projects and the creation of defensible space.
There are several funding assistance programs available to private landowners who are interested in implementing defensible space or completing fuels reduction projects. The WRWC actively collaborates with Delta County in their effort to reduce wildfire risk to residents by carrying out FireWise activities. For more information, visit www.COwildfire.org or contact the West Region Wildfire Council at (970)615-7300.
Below are links to a number of websites with excellent information on fire-resistant building materials, landscaping techniques, evacuation procedures.
Creating Wildfire Defensible Zones
Two factors have emerged as the primary determinants of a home’s ability to survive wildfire. These are the home’s roofing material and the quality of the “defensible space” surrounding it.
Roofing MaterialsUse fire-resistive materials (Class C or better rating), not wood or shake shingles, to roof homes in or near forests and grasslands. When your roof needs significant repairs or replacement, do so with a fire-resistant roofing material.
Defensible SpaceDefensible space is an area around a structure where fuels and vegetation are treated, cleared or reduced to slow the spread of wildfire towards the structure. It also reduces the chance of a structure fire moving from the building to the surrounding forest. Defensible space provides room for firefighters to do their jobs. Your house is more likely to withstand a wildfire if grasses, brush, trees and other common forest fuels are managed to reduce a fire’s intensity.
Please contact the West Region Wildfire Council or the Delta County Office of Emergency Management (970-874-2004) for more information and resources that can assist you with projects, concerns or resources available for wildfire protection.
- Colorado State University Cooperative Extension Natural Resources Publications. This website contains many useful online fact sheets available in HTML and/or PDF formats, including Creating Wildfire-Defensible Zones.
- Firewise.org - This website contains educational information for people who live or vacation in fire-prone areas of the United States.
- Firewise Building Construction Recommendations (pdf)