Within the arenas of improving
fire suppression and prevention and reducing hazardous fuels local government
in Jefferson County is especially active and engaged. The Office of Emergency
Management and Planning and Zoning work together to address risk through
a variety of education, outreach, regulatory and other mitigation programs.
These county programs have benefited from strong political support from
the County Commissioners. Fire prevention and suppression appear to be
well coordinated in the county among the local, state and federal agencies.
The county operates its own hazardous fuel reduction cost-share program
and slash disposal program. Hazardous fuel reduction work by the Colorado
State Forest Service in the Upper South Platte Project, especially on
the Lower Elk Creek Project, appears effective in working with homeowners.
The USFS and CSFS are working together to restore fire adapted ecosystems
in the Upper South Platte Project.
While Jefferson County has been proactive in some areas,
many challenges remain. Hazardous fuel reduction is one area for improvement.
Defensible space is clearly the responsibility of the homeowner, and keeping
the public interested in actively pursing wildfire mitigation has been
difficult. Incentives to undertake mitigation also are limited. Jefferson
County has made 100-130 homes defensible since 2002. Cost-share money
is limited through the OEM program. State Forestry charges for its education
and defensible space assessment services to the public (education presentations
and assessments), which creates a disincentive for homeowners to take
action. CSFS cost-share money for the creation of defensible space was
limited to $9,202 in 2002 and only $16,875 or $43,363 was utilized in
2003. Disposing of slash and hauling mulch is another great challenge
to the county. There is growing pressure to find a way to utilize the
by-products from fuel reduction work. Colorado State Forestry believes
that "Without a doubt the lack of biomass utilization is probably
the biggest challenge we're dealing with right now."
Jefferson County also could benefit from greater
synergies among the many agencies and organizations working on the wildfire
problem in the region rather than their continued independent operation.
Collaboration is evident among those engaging in fire prevention and suppression
activities, but not as evident when it comes to other mitigation work.
Consequently, there is lack of an integrating vision or a way to integrate
the many activities on-going in the county by the local, state and federal