Protect your home
Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue Chief Ron Lindroth said homeowners with property adjoining forested areas can take several steps to protect their home from wildfires.
■ In a buffer zone about 50 feet around a home, he said, keep about 10 feet of distance between the crowns of trees, so fires are less likely to spread through the canopy.
■ Limb trees within that zone up to about 8 feet high and keep yards mowed and debris cleared so fires are less likely to spread on the ground.
“We’re not suggesting clear cuts around a home at all,” Lindroth said. Rather, he said, the intent is to ensure “there isn’t any solid link of fuel from the forest to the home.”
For assessments and plans to reduce wildfire risk, call Fire Rescue at 970-879-7170 and ask for public education coordinator Deb Funston.
Steamboat Springs Homeowners in the Sanctuary subdivision voted this month to not participate in the city’s extensive, federally funded logging operation, opting instead to continue using subdivision funds to mitigate wildfire risk and other effects of the bark beetle infestation.
Ron Lindroth, fire chief of Steamboat Springs Fire Rescue, said the subdivision along Steamboat Boulevard and near the base of Mount Werner “is not a significant wildfire concern” in the immediate future. Most often, he said, “there is adequate defensible space between (subdivision) homes and the forest.”
But Lindroth said the decision by homeowners in the Sanctuary at Steamboat Springs could present long-term risks if excessive amounts of dead trees accumulate and provide fuel for a large fire several years down the road — or create hazards for firefighters at any time.
“My biggest concern with this is that the dangers of falling trees for firefighters are immense. It limits our options for fire control in attacking small fires in there,” he said Monday.
Lindroth said he’s confident there are enough manmade and natural fire breaks in the Sanctuary area to allow firefighters to contain a small blaze within a safe perimeter.
“We’re going to be able to defend homes. … It’s going to be the actual forest on the hillside that’s the challenge,” he said. “The whole scenario will change over time. As those trees start falling, we’re going to add a lot of fuel to the forest floor.”
Ed MacArthur, president of the board of directors of the Sanctuary’s homeowners association, said the three-member board weighed the hazards and wildfire risks against concerns about impacts of a large-scale logging operation, before putting participation to a vote of the subdivision’s entire membership. MacArthur said the Sanctuary has more than 100 lots.
“There was just enough concern that nobody felt comfortable going forward with it,” MacArthur said. “The vote was substantially against doing it. It wasn’t even close.”
MacArthur said a primary concern was the potential loss of about 2 acres of aspen forest near the intersection of Steamboat Boulevard and Aspen Wood Lane, where a public trail winds behind homes. Lindroth said that section of the subdivision would have been the staging area for logging work conducted by contractor Rogue Resources.
“That’s a prime viewing corridor for many people,” MacArthur said.
MacArthur said the subdivision has spent $15,000 to $30,000 on hazardous tree removal in each of the past five years and has $15,000 allocated for tree removal this year.
The city of Steamboat Springs received a $1 million grant last fall through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act and the Colorado State Forest Service for removal of trees that present a wildfire risk in the Steamboat area. Rogue Resources began work during winter and has logged extensively along Spring Creek, on Mount Werner and on Emerald Mountain.
Tree removal for the entire project is planned on about 305 acres split among about 30 units and involving 135 landowners, Lindroth has said. The areas spread from the Spring Creek area to Storm Mountain Ranch at the base of Rabbit Ears Pass.
MacArthur, Lindroth and City Manager Jon Roberts all said the conversations about benefits and concerns related to the city’s logging project in the Sanctuary were amicable.
“I guess first and foremost, I fully realize it’s their private property, and they are ultimately responsible for their private property,” Lindroth said. “We communicated as best we could the realities of what removing the timber would do for them, as well as the downsides of that.”
The city has the ability to require homeowners to remove hazardous trees at their own expense, but Roberts said enforcement of that ordinance is not planned in the Sanctuary at this time.
“We have no current intent of taking action in accordance with that existing ordinance to direct individuals to mitigate their property,” Roberts said. “Before I would ever consider moving forward with an action such as that, we would certainly have extensive conversations with any affected property owners.”
Roberts said risks to homeowners near the Sanctuary could spur that process, but those risks have not yet been raised.
“Neither Ron (Lindroth) … nor anyone else has approached the city and said that this is enough of a hazard to warrant taking a forced action under the ordinance,” Roberts said. “Those discussions have not occurred.”
MacArthur acknowledged they could occur in the future.
“If the city manager were to make the determination that there was a very high risk and all the stars were aligning right, they could force us to do this down the road,” he said about large-scale tree removal. “We determined as an organization that that was an acceptable risk.”