Mesa County case study
Improve Fire Prevention and Suppression Reduce Hazardous FuelsRestore Fire Adapted Ecosystems Promote Community AssistanceSummary


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Mesa location mapMesa County, on the western slope in Colorado, covers 3,309 square miles, much of which is owned and controlled by the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Forest Service. One million acres of BLM land covers Mesa County with an additional 600,000 acres in the Grand Mesa and Uncompahgre National Forests. There are 340,000 private land acres in the WUI in Mesa County. At 4,386 to 10,800 feet in altitude, the vegetation varies from dry and desert-like to dense forests. Pinyon, juniper, sage grass and gambel oak brush occupy the lower areas transitioning to aspen, mountain mahogany, oak brush, service berry, and ponderosa pine. Higher elevations see Engelmann spruce and subalpine fir.

Mesa County has a population of 116,255 people scattered in 15 communities Dierich fire picturewith Grand Junction as the largest city. According to the 2000 US Census, Mesa County's median household income is $35,864 with a median home price of $118,900 of which only 1% are seasonal homes. Glade Park, Unaweep Canyon Corridor, and Plateau Valley are the areas at greatest risk in Mesa County. Glade Park is especially hazardous given the mix of hazardous fuels, homes and occurrence of lightning strikes.

Recent fires have raised awareness of the wildfire hazard. In 2002 the Dierich Fire in Glade Park necessitated the evacuation of 230 homes and burned 2,500 acres. In 2003, the Maverick Fire burned 1,400 acres south west of Grand Junction and the JB fire burned 1,007 acres on Bureau of Land Management land.

Addressing the Threat

Mesa County coordinates its response to the wildfire threat through several local, state and federal agencies and organizations. The Interagency Fire Advisory Board (IFAB) is the main coordinating body in Mesa County. IFAB was established in 1996 and is made up the USFS, BLM, NPS, CSFS, the sheriff's office, and County Emergency Management. IFAB provides a forum for discussing fire issues, potential and on-going projects, training opportunities and reviews of fire. IFAB has met inconsistently since its inception with periods of meeting in regular monthly sessions interspersed with long periods of no meetings. While IFAB may not provide a consistent means of contact and communication among the various agencies and organizations in Mesa County, it is clear that good relationships and ad hoc communication exist between the county employees and the federal and state agencies that must coordinate when wildfire occurs.

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

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