Insurance and Wildfire in the 285 Corridor

Courtesy of:  The Denver Post

Courtesy of: The Denver Post

We’re hearing a lot about Homeowners policies being hiked and cancelled recently because of the threat of Wildfires. It appears that both USAA and Allstate have stopped writing new policies. Some companies have just pulled up roots and run away. This can be doubly distressing for those looking to purchase/sell homes in the area. We wanted to look into this and see if we can help.

Brian Himmelman ( State Farm,  Website ), a local agent in Conifer says that he hasn’t had too much trouble getting insurance for people who have been cancelled or need insurance on a new mortgage. With one caveat: Defensible Space mitigation needs to be completed. We have also heard that Creekside Insurance (Travelers, Website) in Aspen Park, as well as Crow Hill Insurance( Safeco,  Website) can help insure homes in the area. Other Insurance Companies include:  American Family Insurance, Country Financial and Auto Owners home insurance.

There doesn’t seem to be a Defensible Space standard shared by all insurance companies, but the firewise recommendations are a good place to start. Your local fire departments are a good place to start, they are happy to take a look at your property and make recommendations, time permitting. Our local Depts. are mostly volunteer, so don’t wait until fire season begins to call them. That will likely lead to a wait time.

If you are planning to sell, it is our recommendation that you perform Defensible Space mitigation prior to the sale. If you are buying, you can save yourself potential hassles by either requiring, or aiding in the completion of mitigation prior to your purchase. We have heard rumors that a properly mitigated property has a higher value on the market. While we were unable to actually find an instance of this occurring, it does seem to make sense. And certainly, in the future, this might become the stick insurance companies use to make mitigation happen. The fact of the matter is, you are responsible for your own mitigation. Non-profits, such as the Coalition for the Upper South Platte try to help homeowners with grants, when available. But these grants for private property come and go quickly. We want to help you help your selves.

Mitigation can be either time consuming, or expensive, or both. But the benefit far outweighs these costs. Living in Colorado, there is a tax credit for fire mitigation that available to homeowners until 2024. This will cover up to 50% of costs up to $2500 per Tax Year. This credit only covers “actual out-of-pocket expense incurred and paid by the landowner and documented by receipt for performing wildfire mitigation measures.”  It would be nice if work by the landowner could be documented and claimed, but that is not how the language is written.- now is a good time to call or email your State Congressman. But remember- doing this work not only makes you insurable in these uncertain times- it could very well Save Your Home, and everything in it.
You need to be covered by a CWPP in order to take this credit, and the good news is: you almost certainly are:

Park County CWPP

Jefferson County CWPP

Douglas County CWPP

Fire Adapted Communities Resources

Wildfire mitigation is a community-wide effort.  That means we all need to understand how to build relationships and work together to improve resiliency in our communities.  Lessons from wildfire social science can help us understand the human dynamics involved in improving the health of our forests and reducing the risk of wildfire.

The Fire Adapted Communities Learning Network Blog highlighted some helpful social science research projects funded by the Joint Fire Science Program in a recent blog post:

Social Science at the Wildland Urban Interface: Creating Fire-Safe Communities

The Role of Adaptive Capacity in Creating Fire Adapted Human Communities

Community Wildfire Protection Plans: Enhancing Collaboration and Building Social Capacity

Evaluation, Communication Strategies, and Local Partnerships: Methods for Reducing Fuels, Sharing Responsibility, and Building Trust

Colorado’s Forests: Challenges and Opportunities

The Colorado State Forest Service has produced a series of informative videos covering the challenges in our forests and what can be done and is being done to address these challenges.

Take a look at the Colorado’s Forests: Challenges and Opportunities video series:

Part 1: Background and Forest Issues of Concerns

Part 2: Forest Management as a Solution

Part 3: The Challenge of a Growing WUI

Part 4: The Importance of a Wood Products Industry 

After Wildfire Guide

The ‘After Wildfire: A Guide for New Mexico Communities’ website is a great resource for understanding what to do after a large wildfire.  Although the guide is tailored for  New Mexico communities, much of the information is relevant for communities grappling with post-fire impacts throughout the West.  The guide is also useful for preparing for wildfires and post-fire flooding before disaster strikes.

The website includes information on:


Mastication, a critical tool

Mastication Machines are used by the U.S. Forest Service in remote locations where access prohibts the removal of products and where the public would have a difficult time accessing the area for firewood.  These large machines chew up small diameter trees and leave the residual wood on site in small chunks.  As the Bailey area is thinned, this tool will continue to provide the opportunity to thin trees behind private lands and in remote locations.

Mastication Machine

Mastication Machine

Fire Ecology Institute Reflections

With support from Fire Adapted Communities, CUSP sponsored the Fire Ecology Institute in Florissant, CO last month. This weeklong program put on by Colorado’s Project Learning Tree allows educators to dive into forest and fire topics and understand how they can bring these concepts back to their students. Reflections from participants and lesson plans are now available to look through at

Some of the reflections from this great program –

“To sum the FEI up, I can honestly say I was tired from the very long days, I am full of new knowledge and have a new appreciation for the forests and the effort needed to keep our forests as they should be. I look forward to using my new knowledge to teach my students about fire ecology. I have been inspired to think about starting a fire ecology camp for middle school students.”

“No textbook or lecture can teach as much as the experience of actually walking, touching and seeing fire ecology.”

“Being a student at the Fire Ecology Institute will impact and enhance my life as a firefighter and as an educator, because I am able to integrate my knowledge and experience in order to teach others.”

“Experiencing these topics and issues have enhanced my love for the environment and have opened my eyes to another perspective of the world of fire.”

“I understand what the news is explaining to the community, and I know I can share that knowledge with kids who will be able to explain things to their own families.”

“There was one idea that hit me like a ton of bricks and has caused a dramatic shift in the way I view forests: our forests are not in their natural state right now. While this was reiterated time and again throughout the institute, every time I heard it, I was just baffled that I’ve grown up my entire life with this misconceived notion of what a forest should be. I have to everyone, since my return to Fort Collins, about this and that it is due to the fire suppression during the last century. Not one person that I’ve talked with knew about this before I told them.”

“The first day of class, the speakers were talking about mitigation; I wasn’t even exactly sure what this word meant. However, our first fieldtrip was to see the aftermath of the Black Forest fire. Seeing the homes that were mitigated and the ones that were not, I understood how imperative mitigation is. I thought this was the first lesson to bring back to my students. It didn’t matter if you lived in the forest or simply near the grasslands; people must protect their homes.”

“This weeklong experience opened my eyes to new opportunities to share with our youth as our well as our community members. It was motivating to hear how the other educators in our group were going to bring back what they learned into their classrooms. I believe fire ecology is an important issue to be taught to all ages. This five day class was fascinating and taught me that one does not have live close to the forest to appreciate the impact that the forest has on each and every one of us in Colorado.”

“This class has been the missing link I have needed to get reenergized about teaching and bring meaningful, relevant course work back into all my classes.”

“I now feel I can confidently teach, not only about fire ecology, but the mitigation practices and community outreach. Students in my area are very out of touch with their neighbors and community. This would be a great subject to breach and start up a conversation on the importance of team work and watching over our community as a whole not just single individuals.”

“I came away from this class with a head full of ideas, a reenergized sense of place and excitement to start the next school year. I would recommend this class to anyone interested in fire ecology or a need to refresh their teaching ideas with new natural resource concepts.”

“I found out about fuel suppression and home management practices for stronger community safety because in an area like Colorado, the residents must understand that fire season, like snow season is a natural occurrence we must be prepared to encounter and work with in our lives. Before coming to the FEI I thought that it was other’s responsibility to control and protect against all fire. Now I know it is my responsibility as a community member to maintain my home and the area around it so that fire has less of a chance to reach the crown of the trees and spread rapidly.”

“I have already begun to spread the ideas I learned through my Facebook learning communities set up by the National Association for Environmental Education. I also am talking with family and friends. I just got asked by one of my supervisors to come up with a month long (four) series of outdoor education outlines of topics for fire ecology lessons that can be taught at the preschool level.”

“The need for fire has changed my perspective about the forests that our right outside our back door and this will directly impact how I plan to use my own learning to teach my class about fire ecology.”

“Throughout the week, I kept building a “To Do” list which included things like: eliminate all of the ladder fuels on my property, clean out the gutters (in the event of an ember storm, this is a tinder box!), clear out any flammable debris around the house (especially within a 5-foot radius), consider replacing parts of my wood fence that come up to my house with something less likely to catch on fire, and taking measures to make my address more viewable from the street.  This was just on a personal level, and in made me think about all the work a “firewise” community has ahead of it.”  

“The work we did in the field was eye-opening, and made me realize that so many people are involved in keeping communities safe and assets protected.”

“Our forests are one of our greatest resources and should be respected; I believe that knowledge passed on to our youth about this great resource is necessary if we as a nation are going to preserve them.”

“Understanding that fire is an essential part of forest ecology is imperative if we are to help our forests return to a healthier state and to understand how to best steward that action.”

“It is becoming apparent that people are beginning to understand fires and their essential nature to forest ecology, and I am happy to be able to eloquently speak about such things with people now in a way that feels educated and knowledgeable.”

Stewardship Contracting

The National Forest Foundation is hosting a webinar for partnering organizations to provide an overview, updates, and examples of stewardship contracting.  Stewardship contracting is an important mechanism for getting work done on Forest Service lands.  The webinar will take place on Thursday, July 24th from 2:00-3:30pm EDT (12:00-1:30pm MDT).  Register at or watch the recording at

Learn more about stewardship contracting on federal lands and the upcoming webinar in the NFF’s newsletter.