Durango District

Fire is a natural process that provides ecological benefits. Hazards to life and property exist when a fire occurs and where conditions are conducive for the fire to grow. Land managers and homeowners can take preventive measures to reduce the occurrence of catastrophic wildfires.

Wildfire Mitigation & Education

The Narraguinnep Fire near Dove Creek occurred in August 2009.


Fire is a natural process that provides ecological benefits. Hazards to life and property exist when a fire occurs and where conditions are conducive for the fire to grow. Efforts to suppress fires are intended to reduce these threats to life and property. The effect of fire on your property is partially determined by what you have done to affect fire's behavior and by what your neighbors have done.

Although we all like to think the fire will be somewhere other than on our own property, fire is a part of forest ecology. It's not a matter of if it happens, but when it happens. Low-intensity fires reduce fuel buildup on the forest floor, thus helping prevent susceptibility to insect infestations and disease outbreaks. Additionally, fire helps recycle nutrients back into the soil and creates a fertile environment for seeds to germinate. Forest fires can enhance wildlife habitat and improve access and appearance.

Excessive fire suppression and fuel buildup have negative impacts on forest health and the humans and wildlife that inhabit the area. However, land managers and homeowners can take preventive measures to reduce the occurrence of catastrophic wildfires. Such actions include clearing dead and downed materials, thinning tree stands and removing other hazardous fuels. Allowing naturally occurring fires to burn without interference or applying fire through prescribed burning can help prevent intense crown fires and maintain a healthy forest.

Grassy Mountain State Land Fuels Project before mitigation Grassy Mounain State Land Fuels Project after mitigation

The wildland-urban interface, or WUI, is any area where man-made improvements are built close to, or within, natural terrain and flammable vegetation, and where high potential for wildland fire exists. During the past few decades, population in the interface has increased. Homes, businesses, and subdivisions are being built on forested lands that have historically seen regular fires, and even need them to remain healthy. For a map of Colorado’s WUI area, click here.

Protect your Home, Property and Forest

Homeowners can take steps to protect their property and help alleviate the spread of wildland fires. Preventive measures include clearing excess fuel, creating defensible space around their homes and using FireWise practices.

Due to the arid climate and fire-dependent forests in Colorado, many homeowners and landowners may be particularly vulnerable to wildfires. It is important to keep this threat in mind when buying or building a home. Two factors have emerged as the primary determinants of a home's ability to survive wildfires: choosing fire-resistant roofing material and creating a wildfire defensible zone. Fire-resistant roofing material should be rated class C or higher when building a home in, or near, forests or grasslands. Avoid flammable materials such as wood or shake shingles.

Defensible space zones around a home

When creating a defensible zone, choose vegetation wisely. Maintain a greenbelt (irrigated, if possible) immediately around your home with grass, a flower garden and/or fire-resistant ornamental shrubbery. An alternative is rock or other non-combustible material that may be preferable if your home is constructed with wood or other flammable materials. Avoid using bark or wood chip mulch in this zone.

Learn how to create defensible space around your home

Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPP)

Doug Hoover, property owners association president, signs the Elk Stream Ranch CWPP at the POA annual meeting on August 9, 2008.

A CWPP brings together diverse local interests to discuss their mutual concerns for public safety, community sustainability and natural resources.

For more information about CWPPs and local CWPPs by county, click here. For more information in the Durango District area, visit the Southwest Colorado Fire Information Clearinghouse website.

Post-Fire Rehabilitation

CSFS assists affected landowners with wildfire rehabilitation plans following wildfire events. These plans outline structural erosion control measures and suggest needed re-vegetation to assist the land healing process. CSFS also can help conduct a salvage sale of any fire-damaged timber. Many rehabilitation plans are implemented with cost-share assistance.

Log erosion barriers placed after the 2002 Missionary Ridge Fire Salvage logging completed on private property after the 2002 Missionary Ridge Fire

Learn more about post-fire rehabilitation

Fire as a Tool

Fire can be an efficient tool to accomplish many landowner objectives including wildlife habitat, range improvement, forest management and wildfire hazard reduction.

Before the prescribed burnDuring the prescribed burn


First year after the prescribed burn Third year after the prescribed burn Second year after the prescribed burn

A series of photos taken at a prescribed burn location: before, during (top left to right), and the first, second and third year after the burn (bottom left to right).


Colorado Wildland Fire & Incident Academy

The academy has become the place for Colorado (now national and international) wildfire agencies to receive nationally-qualifying wildfire training.

National Wildfire Coordinating Group (NWCG) wildfire courses:

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