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

Wildfire Mitigation Workshop

A free workshop scheduled for 9 a.m. – 12 p.m. May 2 at the Douglas County Events Center, 500 Fairgrounds Drive, Castle Rock, will provide information to citizens regarding wildfire hazard reduction techniques, community wildfire mitigation and preparedness efforts, evacuation planning and insurance needs.

“Because our citizens live in and around the interface of the Pike National Forest, as well as within wooded areas and adjacent to grasslands, it is important that individuals know what can be done to reduce their risk during a wildfire,” said Commissioner David Weaver.

The event, held in accordance with National Wildfire Community Preparedness Day, is sponsored by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Colorado State Forest Service and the Douglas County Wildfire Mitigation team and will feature a panel presentation. Coffee and snacks will be provided. See the Douglas County post about the event and please RSVP to no later than April 24.

Coalition promotes forest health

The Coalition for the Upper South Platte (CUSP) has been doing extensive forest health work in the Woodland Park and Divide area this winter.  CUSP’s fire crews have burned over 750 slash piles left over from wildfire mitigation/forest restoration work this winter.  Take a look at the article and blog post below to learn more about this work.

Have you seen smoke in the air on recent snowy days? With wildfire season approaching, the Coalition for the Upper South Platte has been promoting forest health on private property, including with the use of controlled pile burns. The Pikes Peak Courier spoke to Jonathan Bruno, operations director for CUSP, about what the organization is doing to prepare the Woodland Park area for warmer, dryer days.

See the Pike Peak Courier full article – Coalition promotes forest health: Use of controlled pile burns on private property takes planning and care.

Also take a look at Jonathan Bruno’s, CUSP’s Chief Operating Officer, blog post in which he shares lessons learned on the Fire Adapted Learning Network Blog.

Fire Ecology Institute for Educators

Register for either of the 2015 Fire Ecology Institutes for Educators (in Durango from June 7-12, 2015 | in Florissant from July 6-11, 2015) now!


Register for the 2015 Fire Ecology Institute

Some of the reflections from 2014 Fire Ecology Institute participants –

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”

“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.”



CUSP is solicting Chipper Dates in the 285 corridor

The Coalition for the Upper South Platte fuels team is looking to book some Chipper dates in the 285 corridor this summer. CUSP is a non-profit watershed protection agency, and not a chipper “service”. We work with you, as a volunteer, to further the goal of preventing wildfires. The most efficient way to mitigate fire hazards is often with your HOA, as a whole, or working with your individual neighbors to create a full day of chipping work for our crew members. We have a full sized, Morbark chipper, with a trained crew, and charge a minimal fee in the form of a donation.
Due to the fact that we are serving a very large area now, dates will be limited this season. So, please CONTACT  soon if you are interested.
And be sure to go to our Chipper page for more information about our program, including rates.
As community members; please look into and for more information about mitigating around your home and ensuring your community is prepared in the event of fire. We look forward to helping.



Pile Burning near Divide & Woodland Park

The Coalition for the Upper South Plattes fuels management crews are scheduled to begin pile burning in the next month.

Crews will begin burning piles located north of Divide within the Ute Lakes Fishing and Recreation Club, east of Woodland Park, at the Glen Aspen Boy Scout Camp, off of Loy Creek Road and at a private residence southwest of Woodland Park, off of Arapahoe St.  Burning will occur as weather and conditions allow throughout the next few months.

Smoke may be visible on Highway 24, CR 5, Hwy 67, Rampart Range Road and Loy Creek Road. Smoke-sensitive residents should consider staying indoors and keeping doors, windows and outside vents closed.

Fuels management staff will post road signs around the areas affected by the pile burns and send nixel notifications.  For more information please contact –, or call 719.748.0033

Learning to coexist with wildfire

A recent study, Learning to Coexist with Wildfire, was published in the November 6 issue of Nature.


The impacts of escalating wildfire in many regions — the lives and homes lost, the expense of suppression and the damage to ecosystem services — necessitate a more sustainable coexistence with wildfire. Climate change and continued develop- ment on fire-prone landscapes will only compound current problems. Emerging strategies for managing ecosystems and mitigating risks to human communities provide some hope, although greater recognition of their inherent variation and links is crucial. Without a more integrated framework, fire will never operate as a natural ecosystem process, and the impact on society will continue to grow. A more coordinated approach to risk management and land-use planning in these coupled systems is needed.

Preparing for Climate Change – Adaption Plans

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has released Being Prepared for Climate Change: A Workbook for Developing Risk-Based Adaption Plans with the purpose of:

Identifying risks associated with climate change and managing them to reduce their impacts is essential. This Workbook presents a guide to climate change adaptation planning based on EPA’s experience with watershed management, the National Estuary Program and the Climate Ready Estuaries program. The Workbook will assist organizations that manage environmental resources to prepare a broad, risk-based adaptation plan.

The audience for this Workbook is professionals at organizations that manage environmental resources, especially organizations with a coastal or watershed focus. They are knowledgeable about their systems but not necessarily sophisticated about climate science or risk management. They may be addressing a myriad of issues that require immediate attention and have limited time to focus on adaptation planning for the future. Furthermore, they may need to adapt to climate change impacts within their organization’s existing resources. Despite these challenges, managers who realize that climate change will affect their ability to meet their goals will see the need to incorporate climate change risk into their planning.

Although risk management and risk-based vulnerability assessments have been highlighted or recommended by experts in the field of climate change adaptation,1 to date only a handful of risk-based plans have been published. Interviews with coastal managers conducted by Climate Ready Estuaries staff in 2011 revealed that managers are not sure what is meant by a “risk-based vulnerability assessment,” and would like tools to help them proceed.


The EPA is also hosting an associated webcast seminar – Climate Resilience: What to Expect, How to Prepare, and What You Can Learn from Others – on October 29th.