Fire prevention plan begins

City implements mapping system for wildland fire program

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The city is implementing a mapping system that will link to information about structures, part of a $115,000 federal grant targeted at fighting and preventing wildland fires.

Geo Data Services Inc., a Missoula, Mont., consulting company, is training five city staffers this week to work with a Geographic Information System mapping program.

The program will be a map of structures in Steamboat Springs and outlying areas and will contain information about each of those structures. The information will help firefighters get a better idea of what to expect before arriving at a fire.

The Steamboat Springs Fire Department and the Steamboat Springs Rural Fire Protection District will use the maps.

In September, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, awarded the city the $115,000 grant. The city has a $30,000 matching grant.

The money will be used to take aerial photographs, to survey 200 structures that are susceptible to wildland fires and to educate homeowners on the national FIREWISE program. The city has until October to complete the programs.

The city intends to map all of Steamboat and surrounding areas that are part of the city's urban interface area and link it with general information about the structures. Two subdivisions especially prone to wildfires have been targeted for more information.

The two areas, consisting of about 200 dwellings, are the Steamboat Pines, which is outside the city, and residences along Burgess Creek Road.

These areas will have information about the best way to access the dwellings, what kind of materials the house was built with and the fire rating given to that structure.

"Firefighters will have an idea of what they are coming to before they get there," City Manager Wendy DuBord said. "And, the homeowner has a better realization they are in an urban interface area."

DuBord said the city has been able to use information that already exists on the Routt County Assessor's Web site. The assessor's database has detailed information on property for tax reasons, but that information has never been linked to a map, DuBord said.

The city also plans to spend time this summer gathering more detailed information on the structures within the two targeted areas.

DuBord hopes more grant money will continue to come into the city so more detailed information on other structures in the urban interface area can be entered into the database.

"Very urban areas are really not wildfire prone, but a lot of subdivisions are next to national and state forest land," DuBord said.

The grant also allows the fire department to help educate homeowners with vulnerable properties.

As part of the national FIREWISE fire prevention program, the grant helps homeowners develop strategies to reduce fire hazards, perform cost-benefit analysis for fuel mitigation work and provide recommendations for how homeowners can mitigate risks around their homes.

-- To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229

or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com

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