APRIL 29, 2019 BY 

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Homes across Routt County are built in areas that make them more at risk of wildland fire.

From North Routt to Steamboat Springs to Stagecoach and Hayden, our homes are interspersed within the wildland-urban interface, an area fire and forest managers identify as containing vegetation particularly close to homes and prone to burn.

But there are ways to reduce the risk of wildfire, and according to Colorado State Forest Service Forester Carolina Manriquez, it’s worthwhile to take steps to mitigate wildfire.

“It is getting drier. It is getting hotter,” she said. “It’s just a matter of when, not a matter of if. Wildfire mitigation has proven to be a good investment.”

Manriquez said that according to the State Forest Service, $1 spent in mitigation, or risk reduction, equates to $4 saved in suppression, or the actual fighting of a wildfire.

Several organizations have partnered to put on a free, one-day wildfire mitigation conference for Routt County residents, where they can learn about the process of fighting fires as well as ways to reduce the threat of a wildfire.

“The idea is to have information about available resources for landowners and to make sure that we’re all thinking about the small picture and the big picture, so yard to forest,” Manriquez said. “It’s good to do something in your backyard, but you need to be working with your neighbor, and you need to be working with your (homeowner’s association), and you need to be working with your fire district.

“We need to be thinking landscape-wide in what the values at risk are and making sure that we are addressing those concerns,” she continued.

Current Colorado Department of Natural Resources Executive Director and former Summit County Commissioner Dan Gibbs will open the conference with a keynote presentation. The conference will feature two panel discussions about how local firefighters have responded to fires and local resources to reduce wildfire risk. A second panel will explore successful strategies other communities have used to adapt to fire.

The afternoon’s breakout sessions will consider ways to protect your home and property, fire-wise construction, fire risk reduction in agriculture and what happens after a fire occurs.

Manriquez said the conference is for everyone — property owners, representatives of homeowners associations and ranchers.

When the conference is over, Manriquez said organizers plan to compile information on the Routt County Emergency Management webpage at co.routt.co.us/153/Emergency-Management.

Fire managers will also be convening the day before the conference to understand areas in Routt County that are most at risk, how they’re currently working to reduce that risk and how they can do more.

“It’s just a few hours,” Manriquez said. “There’s no way we can cover everything we’d like to cover.”

She hopes the conference will start up conversations that will help fire and forest managers learn more about what the community sees as risks and properties worth protecting.

“People are out there driving their county roads and going back to their homes every day, seeing what they see,” she said. “We all live in our own little world where we see what is of value and what we feel is at risk to us, and so how do we build that (big) picture? By bringing as much input from everyone as possible.”

If you go

What: Routt County Wildfire Mitigation Conference
When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 11
Where: Allbright Auditorium, Colorado Mountain College Steamboat Springs, 1275 Crawford Avenue

To learn more and register for the conference, visit csfs.colostate.edu/steamboat. Lunch will be provided for the first 200 registrants.

To reach Eleanor Hasenbeck, call 970-871-4210, email ehasenbeck@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @elHasenbeck.