If you live in northern Colorado, you’ve probably been impacted by the recent Hewlett Fire in some way or another – whether through the continual feed of the new stories, seeing or smelling the smoke or maybe even by the call for evacuation during the worst part of the wildfire. Officials state that the Hewlett fire, which was located about 20 miles northwest of Fort Collins, burned 7,685 acres of grass, brush and timber in the Roosevelt National Forest, costing an estimated $2.9 million in damage. Thankfully, the fire is contained, but not without the use of more than 500 firefighters, and numerous helicopters and planes to battle the blaze.

The US Attorney’s Office indicated that a camper started the fire while using an outdoor stove and was unable to stamp it out. Although no homes were lost, unfortunately that is not always the case with wildfires. And while not all homes survive major wildfires, those that do often survive because their owners had prepared for the wildfire.

The summer months are upon us and during this time, more than any other time of year, mountain areas can be devastated by wild fires.  If your home borders a natural area, you are at risk from a wildfire.  Even if you live a mile away from a natural area, you’re still at risk from wind-driven embers from a wildfire.  Successfully preparing for a wildfire requires you to take proactive steps for protecting yourself, your family and your property.

What can a community association do to prepare its members for the potential risk of a wildfire?  A community association that is located in a region that is susceptible to fires should become fire-wise. With some planning and preventative measures, the impact a fire has on the community can be greatly reduced. Associations should adopt a wildfire plan and rules regarding the maintenance of Lots within the community. This disaster plan should include :

Defensible Space:
A defensible space around all structures within the community should be maintained.  The Association should check with local fire authorities for their requirements of the defensible area.  This will permit the fire departments time and space to fight the oncoming flames.

Plan Ahead for Evacuation:
The Association should also have evacuation routes mapped and maintained with the community documents.  By knowing in advance the evacuation routes there will be less confusion if an evacuation is ordered.

Emergency supply bags should be maintained by owners and residents within the community in the event a quick evacuation is ordered.

Some local fire districts offer educational outreaches.  The Association can invite local fire authorities to owners meetings to discuss fire prevention and mitigation.  This education also counts as the required homeowner education required by the Colorado Common Interest Ownership Act.

The Association should reach out and work with local government authorities to coordinate mitigation efforts.  A number of County Fire Mitigation Plans rely on cooperation from Owner Associations.  Associations may nominate a point of contact with the Fire Districts to effectively disseminate information.

Every owner within the community and the Association should review their insurance policies annually to ensure proper coverage is purchased in the event a wild fire does impact the community.  And, for tips on what you should do after a wildfire to assist with the insurance claim process, see Rocky Mountain Insurance Information Association’s website.

People move to Colorado for the breathtaking views, but don’t always see the potential for losing their homes to wildfires. If unprepared, wildfires can devastate a community. However, with advance planning and preparation, you can dramatically increase your safety and the survivability of your property. To learn more about being a fire wise community, check out the Fire Wise website.

Melissa M. Garcia
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