Wildfire conference coming

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Homeowners who live in high-risk wildfire areas are encouraged to attend the Colorado Mitigation and Wildfire Conference.

Routt County Emergency Manager Chuck Vale said funding for homeowners associations to attend is available at the state and local level. The conference is in Vail from Sept. 9 to 11.

"We are trying to educate everyone involved," Vale said. He hopes members of homeowners associations will attend and then share the information with their neighbors.

The conference will cover wildfire-mitigation projects, project funding, Geographic Information Systems, after-fire restoration, evacuation planning and insurance coverage.

Keynote speakers include former U.S. Rep. Scott McInnis, who will speak about healthy forests, and Jeff Bowman from the San Diego Fire Department, who will speak about California's Cedar Fire.

State officials said they would reduce the $200 registration fee, and Vale said more money could be available on the local level from funds left over from the county's wildfire-mitigation funding. The lack of fires this year has kept the money intact, Vale said.

So far, there has been little interest in the conference from homeowners, and Vale is hoping that will change.

"There is not a lot of interest, and there is a lot of dead trees. That is the problem," Vale said.

Wildfire mitigation should be a concern for Routt County homeowners from Steamboat Lake to Yampa, Vale said. Scrub oak, lodge pole pine and spruce can be a problem for wildfires, he said.

Beetle infestation and other natural events have left unhealthy forests across Colorado and Routt County. Saving homes that are surrounded by unhealthy forests would be hard for fire crews, Vale said.

Wildfire mitigation should be a concern for those who have a 35-acre piece of property surrounded by 1,000 acres of unhealthy forest or those who have a home next to a ski area with dead trees.

"It is the homeowners' res--ponsibility. If they don't accept that portion of property around their house, the government is not going to be able to come into a large-scale fire and save all the houses. You can't do that in a subdivision," Vale said.

The Colorado Mitigation and Wildfire conference is held every 18 months and rotates across the state.

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