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Improve Fire Prevention and Suppression Reduce Hazardous FuelsRestore Fire Adapted Ecosystems Promote Community AssistanceSummary


WGA Goal - Promote Community Assistance

Actions to meet goal

  • Reduce losses to communities from wildland fire
  • Promote markets for traditionally underutilized wood
  • Promote opportunities to continue and enhance sustainable livestock grazing as part of restoration strategies
  • Increase incentives for private landowners to address defensible space and fuels management needs on private property
  • Promote local government incentives through fire-sensitive land use planning


The Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) received $5.1 million in FY01 and FY02 from National Fire Plan (NFP) funding, under State Fire Assistance monies, for community assistance. Limited funding is available for community's to access the local level for wildfire mitigation efforts. Small amounts of money for cost-sharing work on private property to create defensible space have been available from CSFS. In 2003, CSFS headquarters capped all cost-share programs at $50,000 per district; there are 17 districts in the state covering the 63 Colorado counties. CSFS Wildland Urban Interface Fuels Reduction Program

CSFS Wildland Urban Interface Fuels Reduction Program

Under the CSFS Wildland Urban Interface Fuels Reduction Program some private homeowners have been incentivized to take action to mitigate their risks. This is a 50/50 match cost-share program. The purpose is to provide incentives for homeowners to create defensible space. 22 grants were submitted for a total of $142,000 in 2002. Three of those grants were funded for a total of $54,700 for all five southwest counties. In 2003 CSFS received applications totaling $459,000. As of March 2003, they had not been able to fund any of these requests so far because of the budget holdups in Washington, DC. Out of this $459,000, 18 subdivisions requested $439,000 and 18 individuals requested $42,000. The projects funded target subdivisions at risk. "My preferable way to go is to work with a subdivision and not an individual landowner because we can get a more bang for the buck" says Dan Ochocki, CSFS District Forester. Overall Ochocki downplays the availability of money. He doesn't want to advertise funding for homeowner defensible space work because he doesn't have enough money to take care of everyone. Ochocki has an idea of what subdivisions he wants targeted and he knows where the capacity is. "It makes sense to devote your funding and energy where there are more concentrated blocks of people - hence subdivisions." There are hundreds of requests for homeowner wildfire mitigation inspections. Allen Farnsworth, San Juan Public Lands Center (SJPLC), has helped CSFS do some of the inspections. Farnsworth also helped get CSFS some money through the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to do inspections. The landowners submit a plan and it is approved by CSFS. The landowner can get reimbursed for $11.32/hr for their work in their 50/50 match. The main prescription is to remove 40% of ponderosa pine and leave 12-15 inches between the crowns, chip the oak and limb. There is a one-page form for reimbursement. After CSFS signs off it takes 2-4 weeks to get reimbursed.Deer Valley picture

The cost-share application is advertised in the papers and Ochocki gives the application to subdivisions at high risk that he keeps on record. Ultimately it is up to the homeowners to contact CSFS and get the grant application. Applications are due in September and awards typically are made by January 1. Applications are reviewed by a state committee in Ft. Collins. CSFS is the final evaluator of whether the project meets specification. Once the homeowner has completed the defensible space work, they fill out a form, submit it and it takes between 2-4 weeks to get reimbursed from Ft. Collins.

As of March 2003, the USFS budget was put on hold because of the 2002 fire season expenditures and no monies were released. This holds up progress, because people won't do the work until they know the status of their application.

CSFS keeps a list of contractors to do thinning work on their web site to facilitate homeowners finding contractors. According to Ochocki they do not have enough contractors to meet demand. It costs between $600-1000/acre from "soup to nuts" to thin an acre of land.

Fire Ready

Fire Ready began in 2000 under the ownership of Ryan BorchFire Ready signers. They have quadrupled business since 2001. It costs $500 to $3,000 to treat an acre depending on what the homeowner wants. Fire Ready works with small-acreage property owners, subdivision homeowner associations, and large clients, such as Fort Lewis College and the Durango Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad to reduce the threat of wildfire risk. Fire Ready treated 412 acres in 2002 for 158 landowners and the right of way for the Silverton Rail Road. Approximately 5% of Borcher's work is for developers, 90% is for private individual landowners. They currently have a backlog of about three weeks work. In the summer they typically have a backlog of two months.

Fire Ready completed fuels reduction work in the Los Ranchitos subdivision prior to the Missionary Ridge fire. The subdivision in LosRanchitos formed a fire prevention committee to take a subdivision wide approach, including tree thinning and evacuation plans under the direction of residents George and Aurora Rose. In early 2002, the subdivision received a 50/-50 CSFS matching grant for $12,000 to help offset some of the costs for thinning. About two-thirds of the property owners participated. Ryan Borchers and his crew worked on the Rose's property, finishing it the day before the Missionary Ridge fire broke out. The fire came through the subdivisions and the defensible space worked. Borchers is extending franchises into Pagosa Springs, Boulder and Telluride. A 12-person crew costs $1,200 a day, depending on what needs to be done. During the Missionary Ridge fire they received 25 calls a day to create defensible space. After the fire was out, many cancelled their plans.



Timber Tech

Timber Tech is a forest restoration/rehabilitation company owned and operated by Tammy Tyner. They started in 1996. Initially it was difficult to get people interested. They did right-of-way clearing. In 1999 they started increasing the amount of work they were doing in Archuleta County. Archuleta County is growing very quickly and they require subdivisions to do defensible space work before building. In 2001 Timber Tech started to see a change in attitudes toward thinning because of the drought.

After the 2002 Missionary Ridge fire they have not been able to keep up with the demand for work. Homes that were treated prior to the Missionary Ridge fire were not lost to wildfire, so people began to see the value in defensible space. CSFS helps with prescriptions and does assessments to make sure everything is OK.

Most of Tyner's work is on private lands, with about 15 percent on public lands. With the public lands work they typically create a 200-foot buffer around subdivisions. Timber Tech is not as interested in the larger acreage projects, but they do like the smaller projects of 100-200 acres. The contracts allow for treatment of the slash.

Timber Tech picture

Developers hire Timber Tech to do thinning/restoration work prior to the sale of lots. This is prevalent in Archuleta County where it is required. Developers build the cost of defensible space into the sale price of the lot, just like they would any other infrastructure cost (water, sewerage, defensible space).

Timber Tech does about 15% of their work on public lands, 50% for developers on subdivisions, and 35% on private land. 60% of the work is in Archuleta County, 30% in La Plata County and the remainder is elsewhere. There is a tacit agreement among contractors that they will work in certain areas and not in others. For instance, another area contractor, Fire Ready, is working mainly in Montezuma County. Timber Tech has no problem keeping work in the pipeline.

Timber Tech treated 602 acres for 52 landowners in 2002. In 2001 they treated about 600 acres. Company revenue has increased from $10,000 in 1997 to $350,000 in 2002. One of Timber Tech's clients, Joe Machock, owns the $30 million Timber Ridge Development near Pagosa Springs. His three-acre lots at 7,000 feet altitude sell for $75,000 to$225,000. Machock estimates the value added to the lot is twice what he pays Timber Tech for the service. The subdivision has 100-foot firebreaks along roads and fire hydrants every 1,000 feet.

Piper Timber Products

Piper Timber Products in Bayfield, La Plata County, was funded $17,600 in 2002 from a Four Corners grant. The purpose for this project is to expand a local timber business to utilize small diameter pine to build a post and beam multipurpose pavilion in Bayfield Park. This prototype pavilion will market small diameter beams to be used for construction in the four corners area.

Triangle Custom Cutting

Lyle Lafferty at Triangle Custom Cutting outside of Pagosa Springs utilizes smaller diameter timber. He is also utilizing some of the salvage timber from the Missionary Ridge fire. Ron Cromwell, president of Affordably Built Cabins and Barns helps market the finished lumber from Triangle. Triangle has a knack for utilizing wood from trees killed by fire or insects that many larger sawmills won't touch. The company also mills smaller diameter trees cleared for developments that wouldn't be cost effective for bigger sawmills. Lafferty bought the sawmill in 2002 with his sister and brother. The sawmill tripled their output in 2002 to 250,000 board feet. He hopes to double that in 2003. A local custom builder, Paul Hudson, is one of Triangle's regular customers. He builds log homes. Wood that is killed by beetles has a faint bluish tint, which makes it a specialty item for custom homes.



Los Ranchitos picture










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