FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Q: What is wildfire mitigation?
A: Wildfire mitigation is the process of reducing the risk of wildfires through a variety of methods, such as prescribed burning, thinning, and fuel reduction. In Colorado, wildfire mitigation efforts are important because the state is prone to large and severe wildfires due to its dry, mountainous terrain and high winds.
Prescribed burning is the controlled use of fire to reduce the amount of fuel (such as dead trees and brush) that can fuel a wildfire. This can help reduce the intensity and spread of a wildfire if one does occur.
Thinning is the process of removing overcrowded trees to create space between trees and crowns. This can help reduce the risk of wildfire by reducing the amount of fuel available to burn.
Fuel reduction is the process of removing dead trees, brush, and other fuels that can easily catch fire. This can help reduce the intensity and spread of a wildfire if one does occur.
It’s important to note that mitigation efforts are not only done by government agencies and organizations, but also individual homeowners and communities can do their part in reducing wildfire risk by implementing defensible space, clearing dry brush and dead trees, creating fire break, and creating evacuation plans.
Q: What are some wildfire mitigation strategies?
A: Wildfire Mitigation Strategies:
There are several different strategies that can be used for wildfire mitigation, and the most effective approach will depend on the specific circumstances and conditions of the area in question. Some of the most widely used and effective forms of wildfire mitigation include:
Fuel reduction: Removing dead trees, brush, and other fuels that can easily catch fire can help reduce the intensity and spread of a wildfire if one does occur. This can include thinning, prescribed burning, and mechanical removal of fuels.
Defensible Space: Creating defensible space around homes and buildings is a key strategy to protect them from wildfire. This involves creating a buffer zone around structures by removing or reducing the amount of flammable vegetation, which can slow or stop the spread of wildfire.
Firebreaks: Creating firebreaks is another effective way of slowing or stopping the spread of wildfire. Firebreaks are gaps in vegetation created by removing or clearing fuels, digging trenches, or using other methods. This can help to slow or stop the spread of wildfire, especially in areas where the fire is moving uphill.
Community Wildfire Protection Plans (CWPPs): These plans are developed by local communities and agencies, and they identify specific actions that can be taken to reduce the risk of wildfire in a specific area. This may include fuel reduction, evacuation planning, and community education.
Fire-adapted Communities (FAC) approach: This approach is an all-encompassing approach to wildfire mitigation and management, it includes, not just fuel reduction and fire-safe construction, but also community education and outreach, evacuation planning, and other steps to reduce the risk of wildfire.
A combination of different strategies is often the most effective way to mitigate wildfire risk. Additionally, the effectiveness of wildfire mitigation efforts depends on factors such as the specific site conditions, the weather and climate, the availability of resources, and the support and participation of local communities.
Q: What’s being done by The U.S. Forest Service?A: The U.S. Forest Service published a 10-year Wildfire Crisis Strategy in January 2022 that commits to aggressive, science-driven steps to reduce catastrophic wildfires in the face of climate change. The implementation plan for this strategy lives here.
Q: Why are Colorado forests so important?
A: Colorado forests play a vital role in what makes Colorado special:
- Habitat for Colorado’s abundant wildlife
- Clean air
- Clean water for Colorado residents, 18 other states and Mexico
- Forest products that support local economies
- World-renowned recreation opportunities
- Carbon sequestration that helps mitigate climate change
Q: What are some potential risks of wildfires beyond the threat to my home?
A: Potential effects could include:
- Heightened public safety concerns related to standing dead and fallen trees and fire evacuations
- Negative impacts to water quality and quantity that affect cities, communities, municipalities, industries and agriculture
- Reduced air quality and carbon storage and sequestration
- Damage to infrastructure and transportation networks
- Decline in recreation opportunities and experiences
- Decline in hunting and fishing related to habitat loss
- Unstable forest products markets and decline in local economies
Q: Who owns the Colorado Forests?
A: Colorado Forests & Woodlands:
15.8M+ Federal Ownership (65% of Colorado Forests)- 11.3M a managed by US Forest Service
4.2M operated by The Bureau of Land Management
380K acres by The National Park Service
7.1M acres in private ownership (30% of the state’s forested landscapes)
370K acres managed by The Colorado State Land Board
402K acres tribal (the Ute Mountain Utes and Southern Utes)
Q: How can we educate people about wildfire risks?
A: Educating communities about wildfire is an important step in reducing the risk of wildfire and protecting homes and lives. The best way to educate communities about wildfire will depend on the specific community and the resources available, but some effective strategies include:
- Community meetings: Hosting community meetings is an effective way to provide information about wildfire risk and mitigation strategies. Community meetings can be used to provide information about wildfire risk and mitigation strategies, as well as to answer questions and address concerns.
- Public education campaigns: Public education campaigns can be used to reach a wide audience and provide information about wildfire risk and mitigation strategies. These campaigns can take many forms, such as brochures, videos, and social media posts.
- Home assessments: Home assessments can be used to provide information about specific steps that homeowners can take to reduce their risk of wildfire. These assessments can be done by trained professionals or volunteers, and can include recommendations for creating defensible space, using fire-resistant building materials, and developing evacuation plans.
- Firewise Communities: A national program that works with communities to create safer living conditions. This program provides information on how to create defensible space, develop evacuation plans, and create fire-safe landscapes, and also helps communities to connect with local resources to help them implement wildfire risk reduction activities.
- Training and education: Providing training and education to local agencies and organizations, such as fire departments and community groups, can help them to better understand and respond to wildfire risk.
- Community engagement and involvement: Involving the community in wildfire mitigation efforts, such as prescribed burning, fuel reduction, and fire-safe landscaping is important. Community involvement can help to build support for mitigation efforts and increase understanding of the importance of reducing wildfire risk.
Q: What are the advantages and disadvantages of Prescribed Fires?
Advantages: Conducting prescribed burns in the right season and under optimal conditions can:
- Decrease wildfire intensity and severity, reducing the threat of future wildfires in the same area
- Create a buffer area for communities and firefighters
- Reduce ladder fuels and debris from logging or thinning
- Promote new growth of trees, plants, and fungi
- Minimize the spread of invasive species, insects, and disease
- Provide forage for wildlife
- Increase subsistence and recreational access
Despite its benefits, prescribed fire does come with some disadvantages:
- Impact to air quality
- Danger to firefighters
- Risk of escaping burn prescription and transitioning to wildfire
- Can be costly and time-intensive
- May need to be implemented repeatedly to see ecological benefits
- Spring and fall burning may not serve the same ecological benefits as summer burning
- Can aid expansion of invasive species like cheatgrass
- May work poorly in forests with infrequent, stand-replacing wildfires
Q: What areas are more prone to wildfires?A: Wildfire risk is based on several factors: likelihood, intensity, exposure, and susceptibility. Understanding which factors affect your community can help you prioritize risk reduction activities. Learn more here.
Q: When are wildfires most likely to occur?A: Historically, wildfire “seasons” were a four-month event in the middle of summer. Today, the average core wildfire season is 78 days longer than in the 1970’s, with Colorado experiencing large fires every month of the year.
Q: How do I find out my evacuation routes?
A: The most current information can and should be obtained from your local county or the forest service. In the event of an evacuation, your county’s sheriffs will direct you about the routes to use.
Click here for a list of county-level emergency management websites, phone (office and 24-hour), emails and sms/text alert systems in Colorado.
To stay informed before, during and after a disaster you should monitor a number of information sources, including systems such as local emergency services websites, warning sirens, SMS or text alert systems, local and national media outlets, and local government sources. Check out our Resources page to find additional resources for your neighborhood.
Q: How do I get in touch with my local legislators to share my feedback?
A: The General Assembly consists of 100 members – 35 Senators and 65 Representatives. Learn how to find yours and share your thoughts and feedback today.
Q: Federal, state and local agencies: Which is responsible for what actions?A: When it comes to wildfires in Colorado, various federal, state, and local agencies play crucial roles in wildfire management and response. Here’s a general breakdown of their responsibilities:
United States Forest Service (USFS): The USFS is responsible for managing national forests and grasslands, including wildfire prevention, suppression, and post-fire rehabilitation in the national forest system lands.
Bureau of Land Management (BLM): The BLM manages public lands, including rangelands and forests. They collaborate with other agencies and provide resources for wildfire management, suppression, and restoration efforts.
National Park Service (NPS): The NPS is responsible for managing national parks and their resources. They work on fire prevention, suppression, and post-fire recovery within park boundaries.
Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC): The DFPC is the primary agency responsible for coordinating and overseeing wildfire management and response across the state. They provide resources, training, and coordination between various agencies during wildfire incidents.
Colorado Department of Natural Resources (DNR): The DNR is responsible for managing the state’s natural resources and often collaborates with other agencies during wildfire incidents.
County Sheriff’s Office: County sheriffs play a crucial role in wildfire response at the local level. They coordinate evacuations, enforce fire restrictions, and work with other agencies during wildfire incidents.
Local Fire Departments: Municipal and rural fire departments are responsible for fire suppression within their jurisdictions. They work on initial attack, structure protection, and firefighting efforts in coordination with other agencies during wildfires.
Emergency Management Agencies: Local emergency management agencies provide coordination, resources, and support during wildfire incidents. They work with other agencies to implement emergency plans, conduct evacuations, and ensure public safety.
It’s important to note that the specific responsibilities and roles of these agencies may vary depending on the nature and severity of the wildfire. Collaboration and coordination between federal, state, and local agencies are key to effective wildfire management and response in Colorado.