We often don’t think of Golden as being very vulnerable to wildfire. It’s a largely urbanized area on the outskirts of Denver protected by a top-notch fire department. But last year’s Indian Gulch Fire reminded everyone that because we have so many boundaries adjacent to open space, many of our homes – in particular those that abut or are otherwise really near our open space – really are in the “red zone.”
One critical risk factor for homes in the red zone (sometimes called the Wildland Urban Interface) is the amount of fuel in the area immediately surrounding the structure (the “defensible space“). If you’ve got a lot of brush and trees in your yard right next to your house, that can make it really easy for an approaching wildfire to ignite your home. Last year during the Indian Gulch Fire, for instance, some Mountain Ridge folks discovered that a ditch behind their home was filled with woody debris, exactly the sort of fuel that can help a fire jump across the lawns and destroy homes.
The risk is even more complicated now because of the way the fire season is no longer limited to the hot, summer months. We’ve seen significant wildfires here on the Front Range in recent years during just about every time of year, and the Indian Gulch Fire took place in March last year, which isn’t really part of the traditional wildfire season.
After the Indian Gulch Fire, the city stepped up its education efforts around Golden to help residents understand the risks and take appropriate steps to protect their homes and neighborhoods. I don’t know how successful those efforts were, however, nor how much of an effort the city is planning this spring, so I sent a note to the mayor and my City Councilors asking them two questions:
- How much progress did we make last year encouraging homeowners to clear our their defensible spaces?
- Is the city planning to ramp up its efforts again this year to educate and help homeowners who want to reduce the wildfire risk to their homes.
This would be good information for the city to include on the website (I searched but didn’t find anything, although they do have some more general tips about fire safety), and it’s a great opportunity for the fire department to reach out directly to the most vulnerable residents and HOAs to help them assess risk and take steps to protect their homes. I know many Council members have been out of town, so it may take them a little while to respond, but I’m looking forward to the answers and I’ll share them here when I get them.