Check out these recent examples of investments in wildfire mitigation paying big dividends. (Photo: Mitigation work completed by property owners facilitated the Vail Fire Department's safe and effective response to the Lake Christine Fire in Colorado earlier this summer. Credit: Eric Lovgren, Fire Adapted Colorado)

Is Investing in Defensible Space Worth It? Six Examples Point to Yes!

By: Allison Jolley

Topic: Defensible space / Firewise Fuels treatment / Prescribed fire Wildfire

Type: Success Story / Lessons Learned

Extreme fire behavior, like what we’ve seen in California this summer and last fall, demonstrates that there are no guarantees when it comes to preparing homes and families for wildfire. But defensible space and other mitigation efforts can, and do, protect homes under many conditions. Below are a few stories of communities being spared, at least in part, thanks to their investments in defensible space and forest restoration.

  • Get a community member’s perspective — who is involved with FireWise of Southwest Colorado — and understand why he thinks his neighborhood’s investments and culture of fire adaptation made a difference during the 416 Fire: Years of Fire Mitigation Pays off in Falls Creek Ranch, Durango Herald. When describing the same fire, the Durango Fire Department’s chief, Hal Doughty, said, “That mitigation work did what it was supposed to do. We were able to save every single structure in that area because of the mitigation work that slowed the fire down.” Watch the video below for more insights into the 416 Fire.

An undamaged home, buffered by defensible space and otherwise burnt vegetation

Another photo of mitigation successfully protecting a home during the Lake Christine Fire, which occurred earlier this summer in Colorado. Credit: Eric Lovgren, Fire Adapted Colorado

Although this post highlights several examples from Colorado, the value of defensible space has showed itself in other places this year, too. Read the National Fire Protection Association’s article, Firewise USA® Site in Florida Takes on Two Wildfires and Survives, for an example from the Southeast. And, check out the National Association of State Forester’s State Coordination with Feds Saves Hundreds of Wyoming Homes from Wildfire for another story from the West.

Examples of investments in defensible space paying off are a testament to the great work happening across the country, and they fill me with hope. Still, fires like the Carr Fire remind us that defensible space isn’t a guarantee, and as wildfire behavior continues to push preconceived boundaries, evacuation preparedness is an essential component of every community’s fire adaptation work. Stay safe this summer, folks.


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