This content was originally published by the Longmont Observer and is licensed under a Creative Commons license.
Boulder County residents are leading the way in climate adaptation and wildfire mitigation efforts with the assistance of Wildfire Partners, a public-private partnership of more than 40 organizations led by Boulder County. FEMA has awarded Boulder County a $1.2 million pre-disaster mitigation grant to help fund participation for 500 additional homeowners in this unique program.
Wildfire Partners provides technical and financial assistance to homeowners in the foothills and mountains. The program is jointly funded by Boulder County and a combined total of $3.8 million in grants from FEMA and the Colorado State Forest Service.
“Empowering our community members with the tools to complete mitigation work on their own properties is essential to the overall health and safety of our mountain communities,” said Commissioner Matt Jones. “This program is important for the county, and we are grateful for the generous FEMA grant that will enable us to partner with so many more people.”
It is the responsibility of homeowners to take action and effectively reduce the risk of losing their home to a wildland fire. The more homeowners who take action, the more resilient a community becomes overall. With more than 1,900 participants, the partnership has already made significant progress. However, some communities are much more engaged than others. The FEMA funding for an additional 500 homes is extremely important for those communities with many homeowners who have not yet reduced their risk.
While some only think about wildfire risk during a drought or after a catastrophic event like the 2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire, adaption and mitigation are on-going responsibilities that are important every year. Preparing for and learning to live with wildfire has become the new normal for foothills and mountain residents.
“I wanted to learn how to cut down a tree so my neighbor who works for the U.S. Forest Service and a former firefighter came over to teach me,” said Ingrid Ching, a local mountain resident. “I'm a 57-year-old widower and wanted to get some confidence with my chainsaw. If I can do it, anyone can do it too!”
Boulder County is not the only area impacted by wildland fires near residential areas. Sonoma County, California experienced devastating fires in October 2017 in which 5,143 homes were ultimately destroyed. In response, the county there developed a Recovery & Resiliency Framework as both a vision and a call to action to rebuild stronger, decrease risks, and improve preparedness. Sonoma County has reached out to the Wildfire Partners program, as well as a range of similar programs from around the country, as they advocate for, develop, and implement regionally appropriate initiatives and actions.
“We urgently want to understand and embrace the elements of Wildfire Partners that translate to our unique state regulations and supporting legislation, existing and likely funding, our diverse natural landscape, regional climate and trends, as well as the property ownership mosaic,” said John Kessel, Sonoma County Administrator’s Office. “The Wildfire Partners program offers hope and encouragement, along with specific examples, models, and lessons learned. We appreciate the opportunity to further understand what is possible and realistic, even as we set ambitious goals in the face of daunting needs.”