Homeowners Are Still Firing Up The Ol’ Chainsaw To Clear Brush In A Slow Wildfire Season

August 23, 2019
Boulder County resident Lester Karplus works on his land near Nederland in 2018. He participates in the intensive wildfire mitigation program Wildfire Partners. Boulder County resident Lester Karplus works on his land near Nederland in 2018. He participates in the intensive wildfire mitigation program Wildfire Partners. Grace Hood
Boulder County resident Lester Karplus works on his land near Nederland in 2018. He participates in the intensive wildfire mitigation program Wildfire Partners.

Despite the relatively quiet wildfire season, a handful of government programs continued to nudge homeowners this year to clear brush and vegetation this summer close to mountain homes.

“With the recent fires in Colorado, California and throughout the West people are aware of increasing wildfire risk and what the future holds,” said Jim Webster, program coordinator for Wildfire Partners in Boulder County.

According to one recent estimate by the analytic firm CoreLogic, Colorado has more than 113,000 homes that rank as extreme for wildfire risk (compared to high or moderate), ranking the state No. 3 in the country.

Webster said he’s noticed an uptick in the number of people who connect climate change and increased wildfire risk. A federal summary of climate change risk found that global warming can dry up forests and make them more susceptible to burning.

By one estimate, half as much forest area would have burned between 1984 and 2015 in a world that didn’t see human-caused warming.

Programs like Wildfire Partners in Boulder and the West Region Wildfire Council offer help to qualifying homeowners in the form of mitigation assessments and funding. Participants get a laundry list of to-do items and sometimes financial assistance.

In return for their hard work, they get a certificate of completion. That can help them secure home insurance in Colorado’s wildland-urban interface — sometimes a difficult proposition.

“We see more activity when it’s hot, dry and windy. But we also have a lot of homeowners who understand that effective mitigation is being proactive, not reactive,” Webster said.