Wildfire risk assessed for homeowners

By Hank Lohmeyer


Wildfire risk assessed for homeowners | Cedaredge, wildlife,

Wildfire risk, considered a major issue in the Surface Creek area, is being assessed by a new program.

Some 800 homeowners who live in the Cedaredge Fire Protection District's urban/wildland interface area can now access an individual web page with wildfire risk information about their own properties, organizers of a new program say.

The program is intended to provide information on how to deal with issues of wildland fire before they occur. Other help offered by the program includes individual consultations and cost-sharing money that pays partial costs of wildfire mitigation projects on private property.

The program, an initiative of the West Region Wildfire Council (WRWC), was announced and discussed with about 40 property owners and others at a community meeting in Cedaredge last week.

Jamie Gomez, WRWC, said he spent an entire summer traveling around the Cedaredge Fire Protection District area evaluating individual properties for wildfire risk. Riding in a fire district vehicle that pulled into each individual driveway, he made a visual assessment of properties' wildfire risk based on 11 criteria. The information obtained was later compiled into a computer database that is now available online to individual property owners.

Not every property in the district was evaluated, Gomez said. But ones appearing to possess certain risk factors were evaluated.

Letters were sent to property owners giving them a special code they can use to access a web page that has information on the wildfire risk evaluation for their individual properties, Gomez said. The page is located at cowildfire.org/myhome.

At last week's meeting in Cedaredge, several of the property owners present said the website was not working properly. Gomez explained the project is new and bugs in the computer system are still being worked out. Property owners can get information by contacting him directly at 970-615-7300 in Montrose. He said he is also available for individual site visits with property owners to make a detailed assessment on their properties.

The program is called the Parcel Specific Rapid Wildfire Risk Assessment. Gomez said the information in the database that was compiled during his 800-plus driveway inspections isn't used by insurance companies to assess fire insurance rates. Insurance companies use a different industry database for making their own assessments for insurance rating purposes, he said.

Individual homeowners who access the page for information about their properties must have the unique code mailed to them, Gomez said. Property owners can contact the WRWC to obtain the code if they did not receive a letter, Gomez said.

The Cedaredge area is of particular concern to wildfire agencies and the local fire department because there are lots of fuel for wildfire in the area, Gomez said. Cedaredge Volunteer Fire Department Chief Bob Starr added that property owners need to make sure their driveways are wide and clear of fire fuels. When firefighters assess properties during a fire, they will decide whether a driveway provides safe ingress and egress for firefighters and their large trucks. If not and if the property looks dangerous because of accumulation of fire fuels near the entrance, the risk could be considered too high for fire protection activities.

Properties' risk factors for wildfire were evaluated on 11 different factors and four different categories, Gomez said. That information is also on the website, he added.

One of the highest risk factors is having a wood shingle roof.