Courtesy of Don Moore

TayloRae Gilbert learns to use a chainsaw while pitching in to help with mitigation projects in Indian Creek. Gilbert is a student at the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs who is studying sustainability.

When it comes to fire mitigation projects, the homeowners in Ridgewood, Florissant and Indian Creek subdivisions have caught the attention of Teller County commissioners.

While other subdivisions have achieved FireWise designation, commissioners Bob Campbell, Erik Stone and Dan Williams recently previewed the work in Ridgewood, a subdivision north of Woodland Park.

“The people are a model for what a lot of neighborhoods can do together to assess fire risk and determine what their water sources are,” said Stone, speaking at the commissioners’ meeting April 22. “They are doing it as a neighborhood community rather than waiting for an emergency to happen.”

As well, Stone praised the NoFloCo Fire Mitigation Posse in Florissant and Indian Creek. “They have the most active fire mitigation groups in the county,” Stone said. “From a neighborhood standpoint, they get together and identify certain properties.”

As a result, the neighbors come together to mitigate the appropriate properties. “Really, the neighborhoods are the first line of defense for other neighborhoods, with the National Forest out there,” he said, adding that the posse, from 20 to 30 people, meets almost every weekend, Stone said.

Stone’s remarks coincide with a release sent by Don Moore, a member of the posse, that offers tips for homeowners in Teller County. “You don’t have to operate a chainsaw to get some fire mitigation done on your wooded lot... Use a hammer/hatchet/machete to knock the dead lower sticks/branches (ladder fuel) from your pine/fir trees,” Moore writes. “Pick up or rake up all the dead limbs, branches, and pinecones you can.”

As the threat of catastrophic fire remains and Red Flag warnings are a frequent occurrence lately, the commissioners are focused on encouraging residents to assume responsibility.

To help in the effort, Williams announced that the Coalition for the Upper South Platte is hosting a slash site from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. May 29 in Divide.

In other business, on the COVID vaccine front, 31% of Teller County residents have been fully vaccinated, while 64% of those 65 and over have been vaccinated.

As restrictions have eased, casinos will no longer be taking the temperatures of everybody who enters, said Cripple Creek Mayor Milford Ashworth. “Since that was initiated not one casino had to turn anybody away for having a temperature,” Ashworth said. “So that proves that people were being diligent about not coming out in public if they were sick.”

Also, County Treasurer Mark Czelusta reported that the county had only two foreclosures during the first quarter. “These are two private foreclosures that are not subject to the federal moratorium,” he said.

The historically low number of foreclosures is not an indication of economic health in Teller County, but a reflection of the federal-backed moratorium on foreclosures. “I believe the moratoriums are good intentions, but bad policy,” Czelusta said.

As a revenue generator, the commissioners approved an agreement with Lake County to house prisoners in the jail in Divide. The Lake County jail has been closed since the spring of 2019 as a result of safety concerns due to severely outdated facilities.

As well, the commissioners approved the application of Thomas Allen to the county planning commission. “I just want to thank this gentleman for stepping forward,” Williams said. “There’s a lot of discussion in the media these days about volunteer boards, how important they are and how hard it is to find qualified people.”

Commissioner Campbell added, “I’d like to thank you for volunteering to help the community you live in,” he said. “We appreciate the commitment to join this board for us.”

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