Wildfire Risk Reduction

Genesee is located in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), by definition a high hazard fire environment. It is not a question of “if” wildfires will occur, but “when” they will occur. There are steps that can be taken before a wildfire occurs that improve the survivability of people and homes.

There are several publicly available databases that include wildfire risk in Genesee, all of which show that our risk is very high. 

The USFS site concludes that “populated areas of Genesee have, on average, greater risk than 97% of communities in Colorado.” To understand why Genesee is at such high risk, watch the (1 hour 12min) CSU Extension video, Fire Ecology and Behavior.

For information about homeowner’s insurance as it relates to wildfire risk, see the section on Insurance in the Home and Property Protection section.

The Genesee Fire Protection District and Forest Stewards Guild are in the process of updating the Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) for the District.  This process involves state-of-the-art wildfire and evacuation modeling to assess hazards and to identify strategic investments to mitigate wildfire risk and enhance emergency preparedness.  The latest information on the CWPP can be found here.  

There are steps that can be taken before a wildfire occurs that improve the survivability of people and homes.  See the section on Emergency Preparedness for things you should do to be prepared for a wildfire event in Genesee.

Decreasing the fuel load by creating defensible space around your house can reduce its ignition potential and give firefighters a better chance of defending your home from an advancing wildfire. While defensible space is very important, studies show that firebrands and embers from wildfires, which can travel over a mile ahead of a flame front, are a significant factor in igniting structures. Home hardening addresses the little things and details around your home that can determine if it survives a wildfire.  CSU Extension has prepared a video, Defensible Space and Home Hardening (1 hour 13 minutes) that provides an overview, detailed information and the scientific rationale for steps you can take that will increase the likelihood that your home can survive a wildfire in Genesee.

Defensible Space

Defensible space is the natural and landscaped area around a home or other structure that has been modified to reduce its fire hazard. There are both initial and annual projects that will create and maintain defensible space and give firefighters the best chance of defending your home.

In this section, find an overview of Colorado State Forest Service Guidelines for Creating Defensible Space, Genesee ARC and Tree Removal Policies, Contractor Resource list, Checklists, and information about grant opportunities.

Overview

Colorado State Forest Service Quick Guide Series: Protecting Your Home from Wildfire Zones

  • Detailed information about the Colorado state requirements for defensible space. Defensible space is sometimes a requirement for getting or maintaining homeowner’s insurance in Genesee. Note: homeowners may receive notice from their insurer that all trees within 30 feet of the home must be removed. Defensible space does not mean clear cutting (see below for before and after pictures of defensible space around Genesee homes). Creating defensible space consistent with the Colorado State Forest Service guidelines, as described in this link, should satisfy the insurer.  Jefferson County has a list of consultants who can create certified defensible space plans that follow the state guidelines.

Since 2014, Genesee Foundation has had state cost-share grants to offset part of the cost of private property certified defensible space plan work. There is currently no active cost-share grant available. If you are interested in future grant funding opportunities, please email brian@geneseefoundation.org.

Video about creating defensible space (4 minutes)

Creating Defensible Space: Initial Tasks Checklist

Creating Defensible Space: Annual Tasks Checklist

GENESEE ARCHITECTURAL REVIEW COMMITTEE (ARC) AND DEFENSIBLE SPACE PROJECTS

The Tree Removal Policy outlines the role of the ARC in approving tree removal.  If you are doing a certified defensible space plan you should notify the ARC (arc@geneseefoundation.org) at least 48 hours prior to the professional’s site visit. An ARC member will visit your property either before or at the same time as the professional to mark trees that the ARC would like to be able to save. However, the ultimate decision on which trees are removed is up to you and the consultant.  The Policy also discusses the considerations for tree removal that is not part of a certified defensible space project and does not require hiring a defensible space consultant.  

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

Home Hardening

Studies show that firebrands and embers from wildfires, which can travel up to a mile ahead of the wildfire front, ignite most structures. There is a lot you can do to reduce the risk of a home ignition from embers and firebrands traveling in advance of the fire front. These little things and details can determine if your home survives a wildfire – or not.

In this section, find an overview, graphics and videos that identify vulnerabilities around homes that can be addressed by making some structural changes and completing routine maintenance activities.

Overview

Identify areas of vulnerability around your home and how you can protect your home from ignition due to embers.

Recommendations for hardening your home to survive an ember storm.

VIDEOS

Insurance

Colorado-specific consumer advisory: Wildfire mitigation and insurance tips

Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association information on wildfire

Report of the Wildfire Insurance and Forest Health Task Force Report. This 2013 report was commissioned by Colorado’s governor following the devastating fires of 2012 to “identify and reach agreement on ways to encourage activities, practices and policies that would reduce the risk of loss in the wildland-urban interface areas, and provide greater customer choice and knowledge of insurance options.”

Fire-Resistant Landscaping and Building Materials

CSU Extension video, Fire Resistant Landscaping (1 hr 13 min)

Colorado State Forest Service 6.303 Fire-Resistant Landscaping

Colorado State Forest Service 6.305 FireWise Plant Materials

Jefferson County has adopted an addendum to their building code: Appendix Z: Special Building Construction Regulations in Wildfire Zone 1, effective January 1, 2020.  All of Genesee is in Wildfire Zone 1. This Appendix requires fire-resistance-rated construction for most elements, including exterior walls, decks, gutters and downspouts, windows and doors. It applies to new construction and replacement/modification of existing construction that requires a building permit.

Colorado State Forest Service FireWise Construction: Site Design and Building Materials (2012)

Fire Resistant Materials for Home Construction and Repair

Wildfire Home Retrofit Guide This guide from Living With Fire Tahoe contains information on roofs, roof edges, gutters, vents, siding, skylights, windows, decks, garages, chimneys and fences.

VIDEOS

Watch videos about actual wildfires in Colorado and elsewhere to learn how firefighters approach defending homes from wildfire, including the benefits of mitigation.

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