Grand Fire looks to tackle mitigation work with grant funding
As the 1,200-plus-acre Sugarloaf wildfire burns in a remote portion of southwestern Grand County, officials from Grand Fire are looking to blunt the potential for future outbreaks with a new round of mitigation work.
Fire mitigation, sometimes referred to as fuels reduction work, is a major factor in the annual effort to protect the lives and structures of mountain communities from the ravages of wildfires. When the Golf Course Fire broke out near Grand Lake in late June local firefighters were able to suppress the blaze without losing a single structure among the well-developed residential neighborhoods of the area.
Those suppression efforts were significantly aided by fuels mitigation work conducted in the area over the past few years. Grand Lake’s Fire Chief, Mike Long, said that mitigation work “without a doubt saved the Columbine Lake subdivision.” Now officials from Grand Fire, based in Granby, are looking to tackle mitigation projects within their fire district after receiving a wildfire mitigation grant through the Ready, Set, Go! Program.
Officials said they hope to utilize the grant funds, totaling $43,098, to address hazardous fuels in and around subdivisions, HOAs and other parcels of private land in the Grand Fire Protection District. Brad White, assistant chief with Grand Fire, said the grant expenditures will cover up to 10 weeks of work to be broken down between fuel removal work, removing downed tree limbs and other forest debris that helps fuel wildfires, pile burning work and prescribed burning.
Officials from Grand Fire said the district is currently looking for candidate projects for the grant funding and hopes to leverage additional funds from property owners, HOAs and other cooperative agencies, such as the US Forest Service or Bureau of Land Management, where appropriate. White said local property owners looking to do fuels mitigation work should reach out to the district about the grant funding. He added that projects looking to tackle multiple properties, or those brought my multiple property owners, would likely receive a higher priority.
The U.S. Forest Service is the actual entity providing the monies for the grant funding, made possible through a cooperative agreement between the federal agency and the International Association of Fire Chiefs.
Schelly Olson, assistant chief with Grand Fire, highlighted the value of mitigation work, as opposed to emergency response work, noting that every dollar spent on fire mitigation is equal to spending roughly six dollars on emergency response suppression work.
“This grant is important to me because we spend most of our efforts on suppression,” White said, concurring with Olson. “The pager goes off and suddenly we have to get 20 guys somewhere to deal with a problem. This is funding to get out there and get some work done when it is not an emergency. We can decrease the likelihood of a fire taking out a home, or a subdivision.”
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