Thanks to above average snowfall in our beloved Rocky Mountains, Eagle County and Colorado, in general, are looking forward to an average wildfire season, according to the 2020 Wildfire Preparedness Plan released in April by the state’s Division of Fire Prevention and Control. This is great news for our rural community nestled along the edge of the White River National Forest, and could not have come at a better time as we work our way through the effects of an unprecedented pandemic that has rocked our community to the core.
For those owning a home in a region that can be very susceptible to wildfires, this is a breath of fresh air. However, despite the positive outlook, awareness and proactive approaches to protecting a property from nature’s wrath should always be a top priority. As such, the Vail Board of Realtors (VBR) created the REALFire program six years ago to aid homeowners in preparing for the unexpected.
Co-developed with Eagle County in 2014, REALFire promotes wildfire education, awareness and action. By engaging local residents, Realtors, fire protection districts, and the professional expertise of qualified assessors, homeowners can assess their property’s vulnerability to wildfires at no cost. This free service provides owners with an understanding of wildfire hazards in the “ignition zone” surrounding their homes, and guidance to fortifying this area by converting it to “defensible space”.
“From a broker community perspective, this free program is an extremely beneficial opportunity that we feel is critical for more than protecting property values, it’s protecting our families and our memories from destruction,” said Laura Sellards, VBR Board Chair. “After seeing the recent devastation in Australia, and experiencing the close proximity of the Lake Christine Fire in 2018, we know preparedness is critical to avoid tragedy.”
A recent local success of wildfire mitigation was the April 2018 fire just west of Edwards in the Brett Trail neighborhood. Wildfire risk was high from the start of the season that year. Residents of Brett Trail were ordered to evacuate for safety. However, the neighborhood was planned with wildfire mitigation in mind and homeowners actively maintain the defensible space around their homes. This allowed firefighters to contain the fire within hours of ignition and no homes were lost.
Although our wildfire season is predicted to be average, COVID-19 has made it anything but normal. According to a recent Denver Post story, fire officials state that “firefighters will fight more than 4,400 fires with less flexibility and fewer resources due to the coronavirus.” According to the article, our first line of attack, local firefighters, will be short-staffed. Moreover, traveling firefighters may not be able to leave their home districts to aid with fires across the region. In fact, fire officials are challenged with rethinking the way wildfire crews currently work including riding closely together in fire trucks and living in close quarters in fire camps that are far from hospitals and medical care while they work to contain a fire.
State fire officials are in the process of revising fire camp management by altering how crews sleep, eat and bathe. Currently, the way camps and larger fire Incident Command Posts run creates an “environment conducive to the transmission of an infectious disease.”
Now, more than ever, Eagle County homeowners should practice preparedness and consider ways of protecting their properties from wildfire. Colorado fire seasons have become longer and more intense in recent years. And, because of the coronavirus challenges, our state’s fire officials are erring on the side of caution. Like many rural mountain fire districts, Eagle County was placed in a Stage 1 fire restriction in April.
Sellards recommends action now, “At the moment, thoughts of wildfire may be low on priority lists with all that we are challenged with. But, now is the perfect time to have your home assessed. In addition to saving what we hold most precious, there are other benefits like the possibility of saving on homeowner insurance premiums, grants and funding assistance for mitigation costs, and income tax benefits.”
For more information and benefits about the REALFire® program, and to apply for a free assessment, visit REALfire.net.
Visit the Vail Board of REALTORS® at vbr.net for additional information about Vail Valley real estate and to find a local Realtor®.