The North Park County Fire Safe Council (a Colorado non-profit corporation) was formed in 2016 to bring together local HOAs; Firewise communities; the Platte Canyon Fire Protection District; the Platte Canyon School District; and local businesses to pursue our common mission to preserve and enhance North Park County’s manmade and natural resources by providing education, leadership and support for all citizens to protect their homes, communities and environment from wildfires. The geographic territory of the Council is the same as the 2016 geographic territory of the Platte Canyon School District.
According to the Park County Community Wildfire Protection Plan, the Bailey area in North Park County is priority one in terms of wildfire risk. It is the largest area of high risk, contains the largest population and has greatest amount of development in Park County. It is located within and adjacent to heavily forested lands with a high fire occurrence history, including the 2000 Hi Meadow fire (over 4,000 acres) and the 2002 Snaking fire (over 2,500 acres), which threatened the high school, Glen-Isle, Friendship Ranch and the town of Bailey. The Woodside Park subdivision in Pine Junction is similarly situated, second only to the Bailey area in terms of population, development density and fuels density. In all, North Park County has over a billion dollars of development at risk, including homes, commercial property, schools and electrical grid power infrastructure. It also has high levels of forest fuels, high natural lightning and human-caused ignition risk, and is on the National Registry of Communities at High Risk of Wildfire.
Our professional fire fighting community tells us “it is only matter of when, not if” we have a major wildfire event. All that’s required is a period of low moisture, high winds, and one spark and we could become the next Black Forest. Unfortunately we are not well prepared either as individual property owners, subdivisions, or as a community for a major wildfire event. We estimate that less than 20 percent of the homeowners in the region have mitigated their properties to meet a minimum standard for wildfire defensible space. Only four of our subdivisions are currently on the National Registry of Firewise Communities with ongoing annual education and mitigation programs (Deer Creek Valley Ranchos; Elk Creek Highlands and Meadow Park; KZ Ranch; and Woodside Park).
All of these factors led to the creation of the North Park County Fire Safe Council. The Council, whose board is made up of local HOA presidents and board members, has been active in its first year seeking out communities in North Park County to educate residents about wildfire danger and on the process for becoming Firewise. One presentation, to the Elk Creek Highlands HOA in 2016, led to Elk Creek Highlands and its neighboring community, Meadow Park, becoming a recognized Firewise Community in 2017. We are continuing to seek out other HOAs and communities to educate them on fire danger and the benefits of becoming Firewise.
Future projects on the Council’s radar screen include seeking a grant from FEMA to mitigate individual properties in Woodside Park, similar to a $600,000 grant awarded several years ago for mitigation in a local Bailey subdivision, Deer Creek Valley Ranchos. While a number of Woodside residents have undertaken mitigation on their properties themselves, many more have not. The FEMA grant helped homeowners in the Ranchos mitigate where the homeowners were not able to undertake it on their own; we look forward to a similar opportunity for homeowners in Woodside Park. We are also keeping an eye out for grant opportunities to help with right of way mitigation along county roads in Woodside Park as in the Bailey area.