While I was at the Backyards & Beyond Conference, Bill Tetlow, president of the Winter Park Highlands Firewise Community in Tabernash, Colorado shared with me about the success of their Firewise Community in Colorado. Bill shared that they had a wake up call about the condition of the community and the obstacles they had to overcome; "After the Grand County community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) assessment in May of 2009 showing Winter Park Highlands as an extreme risk area for wildfire, the volunteer board of WPHA took action. We were at risk because of our access, fire chimneys thanks to the pine beetles and lack of water resources in case of a fire, the closest water resource was in Tabernash." The community was responsible for a whopping 1,073 acres and 630 developed acres.
They completed an assessment that enabled them to identify their risks as well as the fact that the community's demographics consisted of homes that were second or part time residences for most homeowners. Part time home ownership created an additional logistical problem in organizing Firewise work days. Besides hosting educational outreach events that helped raise awareness of all property owners and working to make Firewise improvements to their homes and properties this community overcame many obstacles to;
1. Partner with the Colorado State Forest Service to remove dead/dying beetle infested pine trees in an area of over 300 acres throughout the community,
2.They installed over 265 reflective address signs (85% of property owners) to improve emergency response in the event of a wildfire.
3. They addressed the lack of water in the community to install two additional hydrants and a 30,000 gallon water storage tank to help firefighters meet their need for water to respond to fire today October 22, 2015.
4. They have as a volunteer organization spent on Firewise projects through the years over $500,000 in grants, donations and volunteer hours.
They wanted to share with others how they became so successful. The key to their success was working with the Colorado Forest Service to develop effective assessments that identified their real risks and helped them prioritize what they needed to do to mitigate that risk. Then they shared that they work well with the County, Colorado State Foresters, BLM and other partners to help them with technical advice and assistance in completing these projects.
"For the past ten years we have been blessed with dedicated board members and homeowners (62% second homes) who have worked as a team and proven to county, state, and federal officials that we execute our fire mitigation plans in a timely manner.”
Bill Tetlow, President 2012-16
This community is one of many who have embraced Firewise Principles, and worked collaboratively to work towards having a Year of Living Less Dangerously From Wildfire".