Wildfire mitigation events start Aug 27 across Chaffee County
Brett and Theresa Ulrich’s new Game Trail home is not yet finished. Construction debris is piled up near the driveway and they are living in a local campground while waiting for their certificate of occupancy.
The lumber needs to be hauled away and their belongings unpacked and arranged in the home. But of much higher concern to the young couple are the low-hanging spruce branches and dry pine needles thick on the ground across the two-acre property.
Firmly situated in the wildland-urban interface (WUI), where the forest meets the residential development northwest of Buena Vista, the Ulrichs look around and see a lot of pressing wildfire mitigation work to do. They are starting in the Home Ignition Zone, the area closest to their new house, and moving outward as they make progress.
“I want to protect my home and my neighbors’ homes and the forest around us,” said Theresa as she donned a pair of leather gloves and Brett fired up a small chainsaw. Pine branches are quickly felled and stacked at the end of the driveway, the cut ends facing out.
Chaffee Chips is set to come haul them away in just a few weeks.
Last year, the couple completed nearly two dozen trips to the community slash pit located on the east side of the subdivision in a flat meadow. “The pit is close, but it still takes an hour to load and unload and get back our property,” Theresa said. “With Chaffee Chips coming, we won’t have to leave our property. That’s a huge time saver for us.”
Chaffee Chips helps community members create defensible space around their homes by providing slash removal and chipping services.
- The service is offered by Envision Forest Health Council partners
- The goal is to reduce the threat of wildfire in Chaffee County
- Chaffee County Fire Protection District firefighters and Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) foresters load and haul or chip the slash
Game Trail’s slash haul away event takes place Aug. 27-29. Additional events are as follows:
- Mesa Antero Estates North & South – Sept. 17-19
- Shavano Front at Weldon Creek, Eureka Ranch, Hayden Springs and Eagle Moon – Oct. 1-3
- Methodist Mountain’s East Side – Oct. 15-17
The service is free. Property owners must pile their own slash and register online before their pick-up day. Last year, nearly 500 piles of slash were removed from WUI neighborhoods in Chaffee County. The program is supported by CSFS and Chaffee Common Ground grants.
HOA updates wildfire plan, connects owners to education and free services
The Game Trail homeowners’ association is in an active period of wildfire mitigation, said HOA Forestry Committee Member Kari Allen. “People are paying attention to the risk of wildfire as well as the health of the trees.”
Allen helps spread the word about the importance of mitigation and taking care of area trees, including addressing mistletoe infestations among spruce and ips beetle in the piñon pines.
The HOA partnered with its neighbor, Adventure Unlimited, to create a fuel break on the western end of the neighborhood after winning a Forest Restoration and Wildfire Risk Mitigation Grant from CSFS. The association updated its Community Wildfire Protection Plan, which could help them attain future grants for additional work, Allen said.
“Our neighborhood is evolving from original owners of up to thirty years into newer ownership,” Allen said. “Some of our members are just not able to do mitigation work anymore and hiring a tree service can be expensive.”
The association also recognizes the need for continued education, especially as ownership changes over time. Allen shares information about defensible space and forest health, helping members get free property assessments with CSFS Salida Field Office foresters, available by calling 719-539-2579.
We’re building a wave of interest, participation and action. That’s all really good for everyone.”Game Trail HOA Forestry Committee Member Kari Allen
Brett Ulrich, a new member of the HOA Forestry Committee, agreed. “The participation is so important because if neighbors are not maintaining their properties you’re at risk, too,” he said, adding that an effort is on to create a small volunteer group to help Game Trail neighbors who cannot get the work done on their own.