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Mitigating for Wildfire 1

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Fire Adapted Communities

The National Wildfire Coordinating Group defines a fire adapted community as “A human community consisting of informed and prepared citizens collaboratively planning and taking action to safely coexist with wildland fire.”

Fire adapted communities are knowledgeable, engaged communities where the actions of residents and agencies creates a fire culture that allows fire to play more of its national role while protecting people and assets from the damage it can do.  We must create a fire culture that allows fire to play more of its natural role while protecting people and assets from the damage it can do.

Benefits of being “Fire Adapted”

  • Peace of mind knowing that your home is better prepared to survive a wildfire
  • Defensible space reduces fire from advancing and endangering lives and homes
  • Property values improve while reducing risk of loss
  • Greater sense of human connection, community interaction and pride
  • Better neighbor relations
  • Possible insurance rate reduction or benefit
Reducing your home’s wildfire risk begins with you!

Firefighters are available to come to your home or property and perform a FREE defensible space site assessment, make recommendations, and help you prioritize your list of fire mitigation measures. Contact info in "Who You Gonna Call" on the right.

Phrases to Know

HOME IGNITION ZONE (HIZ) is the home and the area around the home (or structure). The HIZ takes into account both the potential of the structure to ignite and the quality of defensible space surrounding it.

DEFENSIBLE SPACE is the area around a home (or structure) that has been modified to reduce fire hazard by creating space between potential fuel sources.

WILDLAND-URBAN INTERFACE (WUI) is a set of conditions under which a wildland fire reaches beyond trees, brush, and other natural fuels to ignite homes and their immediate surroundings. Nearly all homes and properties in Middle Park are within the Wildland-Urban Interface (WUI).

FIREWISE is a special distinction given to communities that are recognized under the Firewise USA™ Program as having followed a systematic approach to organizing and implementing a Firewise mitigation plan in their neighborhood. The Firewise Communities/USA® Recognition Program provides a series of steps to prepare homes and neighborhoods in advance of a wildfire. There are over 700 recognized communities in nearly all of the 50 states. Colorado is ranked #3 for the number of recognized Firewise USA® sites with more than 180 earning the designation.

  • While “Firewise communities” occur at the neighborhood level, a Firewise community alone does NOT make a “fire adapted community.” Multiple Firewise communities working together with civic leaders, business owners and developers, first responders, land managers, and others contributes to a “fire adapted community.”

Fire Restrictions 

Fire restrictions can originate from many places. Federal agencies can impose restrictions on the public lands they manage; states can impose restrictions on state-managed land; and counties and cities may impose bans on the private lands within their borders.

Before starting a fire or lighting, smoking materials:

  • Check your area’s current fire danger/restriction status to make sure conditions are safe and allow for an open flame.  Also check for any “RED FLAG” warnings (see section below).
  • Never burn in high winds or leave a fire unattended.
  • Do not make excessively large fires because they can quickly get out of control
  • Recreational fires/campfires should be no more than three feet in diameter and two feet in height.
  • Campfires should be surrounded by a metal ring and be located ten feet away from any potential combustibles.
  • Only burn firewood and nothing else.
  • Keep a shovel, extinguisher, and water nearby to quickly subdue a fire should it get out of control.
  • Completely extinguish your fire by sufficiently dousing and covering with dirt before leaving the campsite. It should be COLD!
  • Always dispose of smoking materials where they cannot be a source of ignition.
  • Never discard a cigarette or other smoking material on the ground or throw it out a car window.

Stages of Fire Restrictions

Information on fire restrictions and bans can change rapidly. Call your fire department or county’s dispatch center to check on the current fire restrictions in effect. See white box below about Red Flag Warnings.

Stage 1

The first stage of restrictions occurs when there is an increasing fire danger and/or an increasing preparedness level, and the risks of keeping the forest open to all activities begins to be outweighed by the risks inherent in doing so. Stage 1 imposes relatively minor restrictions aimed at preventing the start of wildfires based on human activities that are known to be high risk, specifically smoking and campfires.

Stage 2

As the risks increase, officials may choose to move to Stage 2. This stage intensifies the restrictions from Stage 1 by focusing on activities that, although normally managed under permit or contract, have a relatively high risk of causing a fire start. Restrictions under Stage 2 will affect forest users and will have economic impacts to contractors, permittees, and others. Therefore, the decision to move to Stage 2 will involve a risk/benefit assessment, as well as consideration of economic and social impacts.

Stage 3

Stage 3 is a closure. This stage is selected when there are very high risks and the ability to manage those risks using Stage 1 or 2 restrictions is no longer viable. The social, economic, and political impacts of implementing a closure at this point are outweighed by the benefits associated with virtually eliminating the potential for human caused fire starts.

Grand County Fire Restrictions & Stage Infographics:
Summit County Fire Restrictions:

Red Flag Warning

In addition to not burning during active Fire Restrictions, care should be taken on days with “Red Flag Warnings”.  Red Flag Warnings occur when weather and fuel conditions could result in extreme fire behavior. If possible, fires should be avoided on these days. 

Check for Red Flag Warnings here: (updated daily by the National Weather Service)

Backyard Campfires in Summit County

Under a fire-code amendment adopted by the Summit County Commissioners and each of the town councils, a permit is REQUIRED for all recreational (a.k.a. “backyard”) campfires in Summit County. This includes campfires on private lands.

Residents of the Summit Fire & EMS response area (Copper, Dillon, Frisco, Keystone, Montezuma, Summit Cove, Silverthorne, Wildernest/Mesa Cortina and the lower Blue Valley) may apply for a permit from Summit Fire & EMS.

Residents of the Red, White & Blue Fire Protection District, which includes all areas south of Farmer’s Korner, including Breckenridge and Blue River may apply for a permit with Red, White & Blue Fire.

Open Burning (Slash Pile Burning)

Slash pile burning can be an effective way to remove woody debris and mitigate for future wildfires if done properly, performed during the correct time of year, and executed under the purview of an approved permit. For health and safety reasons, slash pile burning is subject to open burning regulations and REQUIRES that a burn permit be obtained prior to burning activities.

In Grand County, Grand County Natural Resources (GCNR) regulates the burning of slash piles larger than campfire-size (3 feet in diameter by 2 feet high) on private lands. GCNR does not permit burning of any other materials besides slash piles. Individuals looking for Demolition permits should contact the Planning & Zoning Department. The burn season opens in Grand County when there is sufficient, season-long snow on the ground and generally runs until April 1, depending on snowpack. Burning is not guaranteed on any given day during the burn season. Burn permit holders MUST call GCNR on day of the proposed burn to see if weather and air quality conditions allow for burning. Contact info in "Who You Gonna Call" on the right. You can also see where burning is occurring on a daily basis by going to and clicking on the “Daily Burn List.” 

In Summit County, the two fire districts (Red, White and Blue / Summit Fire and EMS) regulate backyard slash pile and recreational campfire burning. Summit County Environmental Health Department (EHD) regulates burning of larger slash piles (greater than 8 feet in size). Please contact the appropriate Fire District or Summit County EHD for more information. Contact info in "Who You Gonna Call" on the right. 

Additional Open Burning Resources: Colorado Pile Construction Guide  |  Colorado Open Burning FAQ

Exemptions to Obtaining Open Burning Permits

Per the Colorado Air Quality Control Commission Regulation 9, III(B), certain burning activities are exemption from requirements to obtain an open burning permit. Nothing in this regulation, however, it to be construed as relieving any person conducting open burning from meeting the requirements of any applicable federal, state or local requirements concerning disposal of waste materials. Furthermore,  all necessary safeguards shall be utilized during such “exempt” open burning to minimize any public health or welfare impacts. The owner or operator shall also take steps to ensure that all neighboring residents and businesses are notified prior to beginning the open burn.

Agricultural Burning

Land zoned as “agriculture” does NOT automatically provide exemption from the open burn permitting process. Agricultural burning is defined as “the burning of cover vegetation for the purpose of preparing the soil for crop production, weed control as part of a larger agricultural purpose, maintenance of water conveyance structures related to agricultural operations, and other agricultural cultivation purposes.” If a rancher or farmer wishes to burn something not specified for exemption in the “agricultural burning” definition, he/she must apply for an Open Burn Permit. Calls to your local County Dispatch Center on the day of the ag burn are required, and courtesy calls to neighboring landowners are strongly recommended. 

Even though agricultural burns may be “legal” on any given day, except when local Fire Restrictions are in effect, caution should be taken when conditions are dry. Seemingly small and controlled “ditch” burns may become uncontrollable wildfires in a short period of time.

Outdoor Recreational Fires (if fire restrictions are not in effect):

Attended recreational fires are exempted if they are:

  • Within liquid or gas fueled stoves
  • Located in self-contained charcoal grills (off the ground)
  • Outdoor fires, not in excess of 3 feet in diameter and 2 feet in height, contained in an outdoor fireplace, barbeque grill, barbeque pit, fire pit or grate located on private land or in developed picnic grounds/campgrounds with adequate fire suppression equipment present.
  • NOTE:  Summit County has stricter policies than listed here for Outdoor Recreational Fires (see above).

Materials for which Burning is NEVER Allowed  

  • Burning of food waste, plastic, coated or treated wood products, rubber, insulation, tires, car bodies, insulated wire, motor oil, aerosol cans, hazardous or toxic materials, or other materials that will produce substantial amounts of smoke and particulates.
  • Burning of wood residue, which includes bark, sawdust, slabs, chips, shavings, mill trim, and other wood products derived from wood processing.
  • Burning of construction debris (includes both clean and treated wood).
  • Burning of buildings or structures for demolition purposes.
  • Burning of material for which a practical alternative method of disposal exists.
  • BURN BARRELS: It is against the law to use burn barrels because they are considered incinerators that require construction permits and are subject to federal and state testing and regulations.

Fire District Boundaries

Did you know that NOT all private lands in Grand and Summit Counties are included within the bounds of a fire district? Though the majority of privately-owned lands are included in a fire district, there are a few subdivisions and homes that are not. In case of a fire emergency, these non-fire district homeowners will likely get a response from a neighboring fire district. However, those homeowners may be charged a fee for that response.

 If your property is not located within a fire district, you still have a chance to be included in one. You may submit a “Petition for Inclusion” to a neighboring fire district and to ask if they will redraw their boundaries to include your property. Most fire districts will strongly consider these petitions because their ultimate mission is to protect life and property from fire. Keep in mind, though, that you will start to get an annual tax bill from the fire district once the inclusion is official. Contact info for all Grand and Summit Fire Districts in "Who You Gonna Call" on the right.

Wildfire and Insurance

Did you know? Homes in Middle Park sometimes face higher insurance premiums (and even cancellation).

It is critical to stress how important the issue of insurance and wildfire mitigation is for homeowners whose properties are affected by the WUI. Local fire professionals seek homeowner cooperation and participation in the mitigation process, and insurance companies are demanding it.

If you are trying to sell a property that has NOT been mitigated, insurance companies may refuse to insure the new buyer’s purchase.

Being proactive and spending money up front for mitigation could save you thousands of dollars thereafter.  Contact your insurance agent today to see what steps you may take to reduce your risk, enhance your coverage, lower your premium, and prevent potential cancellation.

References: 1, 2, 29, 30, 31, 32, 55, 56, 57, 60, 67

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