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Visible burn scars on Mount Herman from the Berry Fire and the devastation from the Waldo Canyon and Black Forest Fires are constant, looming reminders of the wildfire risk facing Tri-Lakes area communities. They were also the catalysts that led residents from the Red Rock Ranch community to take up an ongoing aggressive mitigation effort to reduce wildfire risk in their area. Residents are pictured handling mitigation efforts in the neighborhood on Sept. 15. Photo courtesy of Dave Betzler

Last year a small group of focused and motivated homeowners in the Red Rock Ranch neighborhood teamed up with the Colorado State Forest Service and the Tri-Lakes Monument Fire Protection District and developed a comprehensive 10-year plan to reduce wildfire risk in their area.

Red Rock Ranch HOA earned a National Fire Protection Association certification as a FireWise USA Community, with first-year efforts dedicated to resident education, wildfire prevention and risk reduction.

In partnership with the nonprofit Coalition for Upper South Platte, the FireWise team successfully assisted more than 65 homeowners in cutting slash and chipping the dense scrub oak and small trees around individual homes. Additional efforts included comprehensive home assessments to identify fire hazards and encourage development of “defensible space” zones around homes, and active recruitment of neighbors to help with clearing and mulching slash.

The successful, year-long efforts of the FireWise volunteers and homeowners resulted in Red Rock Ranch selection as the Colorado participant in the national FireWise USA 24-month “Sites of Excellence” pilot program, which also includes single sites in Arizona, Utah, Texas, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Washington. Participating sites will actively engage and encourage residents to increase the percentage of homes in the designated pilot boundary to complete the program’s defined goals and objectives. Participating sites will receive special street signage, $1,000 chipping services, publicity in National Fire Protection Association Fire Break newsletter and social media, mentoring for local FireWise teams, and an expense paid trip for two representatives to participate in a Home Ignition Zone training workshop.

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