‘If we don’t accept the risk, we’re fooling ourselves’: Colorado homeowners prepare for 2021 wildfire season

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BOULDER, Colo. (KDVR) — Scientists and fire officials continue to warn Coloradans that the continued drought in the western part of the state has the potential to bring an even worse wildfire season than 2020.

Now that it’s spring, homeowners in wildfire-prone areas should begin mitigating their properties to prevent fire from spreading and reaching their homes.

Chris O’Brien, chief of Lefthand Fire Protection District, tells FOX31 the most important thing people should do is remove anything flammable that’s within the first few feet around your home, including pine needles, brush or even outdoor furniture.

“Don’t be surprised if firefighters come along and move furniture out in the middle of your lawn,” said O’Brien. “Anything we can do within the first three feet of your home is super important.”

Lefthand Fire Protection District offers mitigation assessments and will come to your home to inform you of how to best protect your space from wildfire. The department also works closely with Wildfire Partners, a popular resource for those in Boulder County living in the fire ecology of the plains, foothills or mountains. 

FOX31 toured the burn areas of the Calwood Fire in the northern section of the Lake of the Pines neighborhood. Many homes were burned down to their foundations. Others are partially standing, as fire and water restoration crews could be seen working to rebuild areas damaged by flames.

The shell of a car still sits in the driveway of a home that was burned to the ground in the Lake of the Pines neighborhood. Photo: Aimee Lewis

“It’s very sad to consider the beauty of what this place looked like before and what it looks like now,” said John Miller, a former firefighter who lives in the southern section of Lake of the Pines.

Miller’s home on the south side of the lake was untouched. As with his neighbors, he’s adamant about making sure this property doesn’t have too many trees or vegetation close to his home. Miller is the neighborhood wildfire whip who educates homeowners on what is necessary to do on their property, so there’s a chance they survive a wildfire.

“We all know, given the right condition, nothing we do will save our neighborhood, but given what happened here, the measures we had already taken definitely helped preserve it,” said Miller. “This one was so close to our neighborhood; The message has gotten through and we will continue to hammer that message so that people will be aware. It’s not just cutting a few trees once a year, it’s an ongoing battle we are going to have if we continue to live here.”

The Calwood Fire was the largest fire in Boulder County history, claiming 10,105 total acres. Twenty-three homes were completely lost.

Today, fire crews still don’t know what started the fire.

“We all love to live in the trees and be up against nature, but when we choose to live in this wildland urban interface, we have to know the reality is. A wildfire can happen and we need to be as prepared as possible,” said Miller.

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