Jefferson  County Case Study
Improve Fire Prevention and Suppression Reduce Hazardous FuelsRestore Fire Adapted Ecosystems Promote Community AssistanceSummary



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 actors.

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Copyright©2003 Toddi A. Steelman and North Carolina State University

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