A fuels reduction crew in the Middle Barton Gulch area.

SILVERTHORNE, Colo. – The Dillon Ranger District of the White River National Forest and Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) are moving forward with several wildfire risk reduction efforts in Summit County under the Good Neighbor Authority Program.

In addition to long-term forest stewardship contract work with West Range Forest Products and a partnership with Denver Water’s “From Forests to Faucets” program, the White River National Forest will leverage a newly created partnership with Summit County, The Nature Conservancy and Colorado State Forest Service to increase the scope and scale of ongoing fuels reduction work.

Fuels reduction treatments in the wildland-urban interface (WUI) are an important tool for the U.S. Forest Service and CSFS to help protect local communities from wildfire. The objective of fuels reduction is to remove enough vegetation so that when a wildfire burns, it is less severe and can be more easily managed. At the same time, fuels reduction provides the opportunity for species and age class diversity in vegetation to promote a more healthy and resilient forest.

With the help of funding from Summit County 1A Strong Future funds dedicated to wildfire mitigation, several agreements were recently finalized between all parties that now authorize the CSFS, under the Good Neighbor Authority Program, to implement wildland fuels reduction and forest health improvement activities across land ownership boundaries.

Wildfire mitigation through fuels reduction

The forest areas targeted for 2019-2020 are within the wildland-urban interface (WUI), where there are also opportunities for the CSFS to work directly with adjacent private landowners to increase the size and overall effectiveness of wildfire mitigation efforts. The CSFS is the primary state agency for assisting landowners with forest management on private and local government lands.

Fuels reduction projects scheduled in 2019-2020 for contracting and implementation under this partnership include:

  • Peak 7 area near Airport Road/Barton Road intersection in Breckenridge (approx. 43 acres)
  • Miners Creek – Peaks and Masontown Trail area south of Frisco (approx. 42 acres)
  • French Gulch/Prospect Hill near the Wellington neighborhood in Breckenridge (approx. 100 acres)

Summit County 1A Strong Future funds are also increasing the internal capacity of the Dillon Ranger District to plan and implement wildfire risk reduction activities. An additional fuels planner position will be hired to coordinate wildland fuels reduction activities across the district.

Fuels treatment activity at Keystone Gulch in Summit County.

In addition, funds have been allocated to hire fire suppression and fuels crews from across the region to help with the cutting and piling of trees targeted for removal. One of the areas focused on for use of these funds has been on National Forest lands adjacent to the Peak 7 neighborhood in the Middle Barton Gulch area.

Treatment work there has consisted of cutting and piling dead, beetle-killed trees. The piles will be burned at a later time when fire danger is low, smoke dispersion is adequate, and there is sufficient moisture on the ground.

Fuels reduction treatments have been proven as a means of lessening wildfire hazards, catastrophic fire and their threat to property and public and firefighter safety.

However, to have the greatest impacts, fuels reduction efforts must focus on using an “all lands” and “shared stewardship” approach.

Fuel break, defensible space help modify fire behavior

This was demonstrated in the 2018 Buffalo Fire, where a fuel break created adjacent to Mesa Cortina and Wildernest, as well as defensible space performed on private and county lands, helped to modify and lessen fire behavior – while giving emergency responders the ability to safely engage the fire and allow time for mandatory evacuations.

Taking individual responsibility to reduce flammable materials around homes and communities before a fire occurs can help keep the public and firefighters safe. To learn what you can do on your private property to make it fire wise go to: http://www.firewise.org/