Fire Officials Urge Homeowners to Mitigate for Fire

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Aspen Public Radio – June 25, 2012 by Marci Krivonen

Even though the Colorado wildfires are burning several miles from the Roaring Fork Valley, many residents here are concerned. And, firefighters are advising homeowners in certain areas to take actions to protect their homes.

Arvid Johnson lives deep within a pinyon-juniper forest in Missouri Heights, just north of Carbondale. Today he’s showing a few visiting firefighters his special fire suppression system. It’s an assortment of big water tubs, nitrogen tanks and hoses that he keeps in his garage.

“It consists of two three hundred gallon water tanks and a mixer and a pump, and a hose that’s long enough to reach around our house.”

Johnson purchased this set-up and spent thousands on thinning the forest around his home after the summer of 2002, when conditions were ripe for fire.

Carbondale Fire chief Ron Leach says people are worried this summer, and many of them are prepping their homes preemptively in case of a wildfire. His fire district urges homeowners to use a special mitigation strategy known as Firewise.

“Firewise is part of fire prevention, and while it may not actually, literally prevent fires, it will prevent our homes from sustaining damage from wildfires.”

The term “Firewise” was coined after a destructive fire season in 1985 when 1400 homes across the country were destroyed in multiple wildfires. The program is supported by the Forest Service and the US department of Interior. It teaches homeowners how to reduce the risk their home might be destroyed in a blaze.

Part of the program takes planning and involves work during the construction of a home, such as installing a metal roof instead of using wood shake shingles. But, in the midst of high fire danger, Fire Chief Ron Leach says you can also do more immediate things, like removing wood piles from decks and cutting back vegetation from your home. He says Firewise tactics are only for people in danger of being affected by wildfire.

“A person who lives in downtown Carbondale, the wildfire danger is, there is no wildfire danger in downtown Carbondale, so what the Firewise program is directly targeted to is to people who live in the wildland urban interface.”

The wildland urban interface is the area where homes are built in a forest, such as Missouri Heights, Redstone, Marble, Prince Creek and homes near CMC’s Spring Valley campus.

He says suggests homeowners in these areas do what they can to protect their homes in case of a fire.

Back at Arvid Johnson’s house in Missouri Heights, Carbondale firefighter Pablo Hurr drops off some extra firefighting foam Johnson requested. Hurr says Johnson’s efforts to protect his home from fire are impressive.

“I love to see a prepared homeowner, you don’t see this—this is rare—I’ve seen other house that’s done these mitigation steps, this man is ready to save his home.”

Johnson’s efforts go above and beyond what Firewise recommends, but he says, he doesn’t want to take any risk.

The Forest Service has placed parts of Western Colorado in the “extreme” category for fire danger. Most of Colorado is in the “very high” fire risk category.