Sierra Club members help protect homes

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— Predictions of a severe wildfire season have homeowners across Routt County thinking about protecting their homes.

Next weekend, the local chapter of the Sierra Club will help several Stagecoach residents learn how to do just that.

Contractors, Trapper's Lake Sierra Club members and other volunteers will cut trees, remove firewood and take other steps to create "defensible space" to protect homes from wildfires.

A similar project was successful in Summit County last summer, so it was natural to bring it into Routt County, said Richard Levy, chairman for the Northwest Colorado chapter of the Sierra Club.

Equipment such as hardhats, rakes and cutters is available for volunteers, Levy said. The U.S. Forest Service is donating its chipper and a crew of workers, and Foxfire Fuelwood Products and Rocky Mountain Fire Fuels Reduction are donating their time and experience.

The last item needed is volunteers who are ready and willing to get the work done, Levy said.

The Sierra Club decided to work with up to five homeowners in the Eagleswatch Development in Stagecoach, which is near public forests. Creating defensible space typically costs between $1,500 and $2,000, Levy said.

There are many suggestions on how to keep a house safe from fire, starting with choosing a safe building site to using fire-resistant materials, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.

A key for existing homes is to create a safety zone by reducing fuel in the immediate surroundings. That does not mean the area has to be barren; some plants are more resistant to fire than others, according to the National Wildfire Coordinating Group.

Tree limbs around chimneys, as well as other dead branches, leaves, needles or other materials should be removed. Firewood also should be stacked well away from homes.

The Sierra Group's project will help homeowners make changes such as those, and those homeowners, in turn, can help others understand the importance of creating defensible space, Levy said.

The project not only helps residents protect their homes, it also is a way to educate them about the Sierra Club's stance that logging throughout a forest is not the best way to keep wildfires away.

"We don't want people to believe that (thinning in the middle of the forest) makes a difference about whether their house burns or not," Levy said. "It's what they do around their property."

Anyone interested in volunteering can meet in front of Safeway in Steamboat at 9 a.m. June 26, dressed to work. Lunch, refreshments, safety equipment and tools will be provided.

-- To reach Susan Bacon, call 871-4203

or e-mail sbacon@steamboatpilot.com

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