Citizens will have the opportunity to help identify the values at risk in their communities, define the local wildland-urban interface boundary, prioritize fuels treatment goals and establish wildfire preparedness objectives within identified hazard zones. The meetings will include representatives from the Colorado State Forest Service, county emergency management teams, local fire departments, fire management consulting firms and federal forestry officials.
“These meetings will bring together local communities and government agencies to address fire preparedness and fuels reduction in wildland-urban interface areas,” said Jodi Rist, district forester for the CSFS Montrose District, which serves Montrose, Ouray and San Miguel counties. The CSFS will provide input throughout the process and will ultimately be responsible for signing off on the final plans.
San Miguel County is a step ahead of both Montrose and Ouray counties, having already completed its plan in January 2009, which it must now implement.
Having the plans in place offers protection to landowners, and facilitates the application process for state and federal forest-treatment grants, which require communities to have a Colorado State Forest Service-approved CWPP.
“This is a valuable opportunity for local residents to join their friends and neighbors to help determine the direction and scope of these plans,” said Lilia Colter, West Region Wildfire Council CWPP coordinator, who will be guiding implementation of approved CWPPs.
State legislation required every Colorado county to identify fire hazard zones in unincorporated areas by the end of 2010. Counties have until this summer to develop CWPPs that establish guidelines for fire mitigation in each hazard zone.
Across the three counties the Montrose District serves, there are dense stands of trees that are ripe for fire. Rist said fires naturally control fuel loads in these forests over time but now, with many homes in or near those forests, fires are suppressed.
“Fuels have stacked and piled up,” she said. “Now we are at such a level where some areas are hazardous for people to be living in.”
The three meeting locations and dates are Tuesday, March 8, 4 p.m., Montrose County, East End: Friendship Hall, 1001 N. Second St.; Wednesday, March 9, 7:30 p.m., Ouray County 4-H Events Center, 22739 Highway 550, Ridgway; and Thursday, March 10, 6 p.m., Nucla High School, 225 W. 4th Ave., Nucla.
Meeting attendees will have the opportunity to win door prizes; cookies and refreshments also will be provided. For more information about the CWPP meetings, call the West Region Wildfire Council at 970-249-9051, ext. 125.