Winter Park Highlands receives 5-year firewise designation |

Winter Park Highlands receives 5-year firewise designation

Representatives of Winter Park Highlands, Grand Fire and Colorado State Forest Service pose for a picture in 2013 after the Highlands received their initial firewise designation.
File photo / Byron Hetzler

Winter Park Highlands, a local housing subdivision between Tabernash and Granby, is once again preparing for the coming wildfire season and their efforts have been recognized by Firewise USA with a five-year participation milestone designation.

Grand County is now emerging from several months of fairly mild winter weather with modest snowfall and comparatively warm temperatures. State and local fire officials are predicting above average temperatures and a busy wildfire season this year with as much as an 80 percent increase in total acres burned compared to statewide averages, according to Grand Fire’s Brad White. As such several local homeowner’s associations (HOA) are preparing for the potential dangers.

Winter Park Highlands received its initial firewise designation in August 2013. The designation, which is conferred by Firewise USA, is part of a nationwide program recognizing communities, subdivisions and HOAs that take active steps to mitigate potential fire dangers as well as prepare infrastructure for any necessary fire suppression efforts.

“Together we (subdivisions and their respective fire districts) come up with projects and plans,” White said. “Typically they have made strides on defensible space and better water supplies. When they have done mitigation work ahead of time it makes it easier for us to do work that we call prep-and-go. It just makes it a smoother process to get in and do what we need to do to make sure homes are ready to survive any flames coming in.”

Grand County currently has six firewise designated subdivisions – Winter Park Highlands, Homestead Hills, The Valley at Winter Park, Pole Creek Meadows, Ten Mile Creek and Mountain Shadow Estates – as well as two subdivisions undertaken explicit efforts to obtain the designation – Shadow Mountain Ranch POA and The Fairways at Pole Creek.

Grand Fire’s Schelly Olson, who was recently designated as the regional coordinator for Firewise USA, highlighted Colorado’s leadership in the program, noting there are 168 firewise communities in Colorado, the most out of any state.

Charlie Bouchard, president of the Winter Park Highlands HOA, noted the importance of the subdivision’s ongoing designation as a firewise community.

“The most important thing we can offer is fire mitigation,” Bouchard said. “We are all keenly aware that it doesn’t take much for us to be right in the path of a fire. We make everyone aware of the resources. Hopefully we never have to use it but we all know the reality that it probably will happen at some point.”

Bouchard continued, discussing the “statement” made by the ongoing designation as a firewise community.

“Our HOA is not mandatory,” Bouchard said. “It makes a statement to members and potential members that this is something we take seriously. It makes a statement to the fire district that we are doing everything we can on our part for fire mitigation. They help us out with it because they know it is important (to us). Lastly it makes a statement to the community.”

Bourchard said the firewise designation is also helpful to the Highland’s residents in terms of insurance availability and rates adding that back in 2012 and 2013 insurance companies considered refusing to insurance homes in the area but actions taken to obtain he firewise designation changed that dynamic. He added that the designation also lowers fire insurance rates for homeowners in the subdivision.

Olson said any subdivisions, HOAs or neighborhood groups within the county, whether part of an official HOA or not, can take steps to receive a firewise designation.

“If they are interested in becoming a firewise community they can go to, or they can contact their regional firewise coordinator, which is me,” Olson said.

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