In continuation of our wildfire risk discussion in Evergreen and the surrounding foothills, this month I’d like to bring attention to an on-going effort organized by Jeffco Commissioner Lesley Dahlkemper. Last month I mentioned I’ve been appointed to a Jeffco wildfire task force; this month I’d like to bring you into the loop on what this task force stands for.
First, as the Commissioners of Jeffco have stated: more than two-thirds of Jefferson County is within a designated Wildfire Hazard Overlay District, which establishes additional criteria for development and the county ranks number one in Colorado in terms of the number of homes in high and extreme wildfire risk areas, according to Verisk/ISO Stateline Report – with Evergreen and Conifer ranking among the highest risk areas1. That’s higher than communities such as Sonoma County, Butte County or Shasta County – all of which saw major wildfire destruction in 2017- 2018.
The impact of a 100,000-acre wildfire in west Jeffco could result in the evacuation of 60,000 people; the destruction of 10,000 homes and 100 businesses; and $5-10 billion in losses2. The county’s topography, fuel source (dense conifer forests), and dry weather and an abundance of lightning strikes drive wildfire risk.
At the same time, the county and some local mountain area fire departments are facing finite resources for mitigation and response, raising key questions:
- How do we enhance collaboration among Jeffco stakeholders in an environment of finite resources?
- What will improve wildfire mitigation efforts cost? How will we collectively prioritize and pay for those efforts? What is the role of the county and other stakeholders?
- What are we currently doing to reduce wildfire risk and where are the gaps? What can we learn from other counties?
- How do we help raise awareness among our community with our partners about wildfire risk and mitigation?
To ensure a thoughtful, collaborative approach, the Jeffco Board of County Commissioners (“BCC”) has agreed to lead and serve as a convener of these efforts by an established Jefferson County Wildfire Task Force to explore these and other issues in more depth and make recommendations to enhance our collective efforts to lower the risk of wildfire in our community.
- Focusing primarily on communities in the Wildfire Hazard Overlay District, the Task Force’s work includes inventorying and enhance wildfire mitigation efforts and enhance deeper collaboration among stakeholder groups to leverage finite resources for public safety.
- The Task Force is made up of 31members and chaired by Commissioner Dahlkemper (the largest majority of the Wildfire Hazard Overlay District is in her district). Members represent a diverse background of stakeholder groups including county government, fire protection districts, law enforcement, business, forestry, water districts, community and others that also represent geographic diversity.
- BCC staff coordinates and facilitates the Task Force meetings.
- Members of the Task Force have collaboratively determined three primary goals for year one (2019-2020): Funding/Revenue Streams, Mitigation and Education/Community Awareness.
Monthly 90-minute meetings have been held at the Jefferson County Administrative and Courts Building and will continue through November of this year.
- The task force will assess the status of its work in November 2020 to determine what, if any, tasks remain and the potential scope of work in year two (November 2020-21).
- The task force will report its findings and recommendations annually to the Board of County Commissioners, or more frequently if needed or desired.
- Some topics addressed by the task force may require more in-depth study by a smaller working group of experts (such as the WUI and building codes).
- The BCC may wish to apply for a grant from a foundation or other resources to help fund the task force’s on-going work.
To all of you asking for more information, along with our reporting our findings and recommendations to the Board of County Commissioners, we will also report this same information to the public.
RPM article published in the Canyon Courier