Photo Credit: Riffle BEFORE shaded fuel break implementation.
For the past six years, FireWise of Southwest Colorado has given neighborhoods that are new to participating in our tri-county FireWise Ambassador program the opportunity to receive a Kickstart grant to complete a community wildfire mitigation project. “We’ve found this to be a great way to get mitigation activities going in a neighborhood,” said Pam Wilson, Executive Director. “Most homeowners often do additional work on their own once they see how good it can look.”
The type(s) of projects awarded depends on where the Kickstart funds come from. In 2014, only fuels-reduction projects were allowed. Past projects have included hiring a contractor to write a Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), conducting road work projects (e.g., improving access), increasing education efforts, and creating additional water storage.
FireWise, the Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) District Forester, and/or a BLM Mitigation Specialist work with the FireWise Ambassador on project ideas and how to write a scope of work. It is up to the FireWise Ambassador to get willing participants or approval from the Homeowner’s Association (HOA), develop the scope of work, put out a request for bids, and hire the contractor.
Upon project completion, the Ambassador must do a 10-15 minute presentation to the FireWise Council on the project and discuss any lessons learned. They must also provide before and after photos and documentation of volunteer hours.
In 2014, a Colorado Department of Natural Resources grant paid 50 percent of the cost, BLM Community Assistance provided the 25 percent cash match and the community had to provide a 25 percent in-kind match. “Most communities end up giving a 30-40 percent match,” according to Wilson. “Those volunteer hours add up much quicker than they think.”
The projects featured in the images below are from the Pine Ridge area in Montezuma County. Lacking an HOA or any formal structure, FireWise Ambassadors went door to door to get residents to participate in the mitigation project, eventually getting 17 of 23 homes to participate.
Wanting to create a shaded fuel break that was considerably larger than the road’s right-of-way, residents were given a choice of going 50, 75 or 100 feet back from the edge of the road. The $7,500 grant paid for 11.5 acres of treatment and residents contracted for another 9.7 acres. Residents spent 220 hours of their own time doing mitigation. Not bad for a community where prior to the grant only 3-4 residents had done any mitigation work!
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