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Regional council addresses wildfire mitigation with county

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Members of the West Region Wildfire Council (WRWC) discussed their programs and activities in Delta County at the Nov. 19 commissioners meeting.

Lilia Falk, director of WRWC, and Jamie Gomez, mitigation and education coordinator for WRWC, introduced Jake Schmalz who will be working with firefighters and emergency management personnel in Delta County in all the WRWC programs and emergencies. Schmalz is returning home to Delta County.

Gomez thanked Delta County for its leadership and forward thinking in the arenas of wildfire mitigation, preparedness and adaptation. He said WRWC resources and programs have been available to Delta County residents since 2010 and have had measurable, tangible and lasting impact.

WRWC works with local fire protection districts, homeowners associations, community leaders and individual homeowners in identifying wildfire risk and taking proactive steps toward reducing those risks ahead of a future wildfire event.

Gomez spoke of some of these collaborative efforts.

WRWC Cost-Share Program. The cost-share program provides up to 75 percent cost-share funding for defensible space and strategic landscape-scale fuels reduction projects.

In Delta County 269.15 acres of hazardous fuels reduction projects have been coordinated and funded by WRWC, serving to increase the amount of defensible space within fire-prone areas of the county.

To incentivize Delta County residents to participate in hazardous fuels reduction work, WRWC has invested $98,634. Homeowners have contributed $61,584 in cash-match as well as an additional $18,670 of in-kind match toward fuels reduction work.

WRWC applied for and administered several grants to bring additional financial resources to Delta County

Community Chipping Program. WRWC provides free curbside service to participating communities and residents of fire-prone areas in Delta County. Since 2011 WRWC has worked with residents of Sorrento Heights and the greater Cedar Mesa community to coordinate community chipping projects.

To date, 31 residents have participated in these events; 105 piles of slash have been chipped; 19,563 cubic yards of slash have been chipped; residents have spent 423 hours of work to cut trees and shrubs and construct piles for chipping; and $2,924 has been spent on contracted chipping services.

Targeted Outreach and Planning Efforts. WRWC coordinated a community wildfire information forum in Cedaredge with the Cedaredge Volunteer Fire Department in 2016 which was attended by over 50 residents. In 2018 WRWC participated in the Redlands Mesa Preparedness event coordinated by Hotchkiss Fire Department.

In partnership with Delta County WRWC targeted a direct mailing to residents at risk to wildfire.

WRWC assisted with the development of the 2018 Delta County All Hazards Mitigation Plan.

WRWC has participated in several fire department open houses; homeowners association meetings and community events; home site visits and wildfire risk assessments; and 85 one-on-one homeowner site visits.

At the meeting were three men experienced in fighting fires and dealing with managing emergency situations who came to express their appreciation for the work of WRWC and encourage the county commissioners to continue financial support. They were Jeff Wright, outgoing Delta County emergency management coordinator; Kris Stewart, incoming Delta County emergency management coordinator; and Doug Fritz, captain of the Hotchkiss Fire. Commissioner Roeber expressed his appreciation for the fantastic work WRWC does with landowners.

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