Winter Park Highlands takes steps to protect against wildfires |

Winter Park Highlands takes steps to protect against wildfires

The Winter Park Highlands Association has begun taking steps to protect against wildfires after being rated as extremely hazardous by the Community Wildfire Protection Plan in 2009.

“It is a great setting to live in up here, but there are responsibilities that come with it,” said Bob Colosimo, president of the Winter Park Highlands Association.

The plan was created and submitted by the Anchor Point Group, a wildfire mitigation consulting company based out of Boulder, and includes recommendations for wildfire mitigation of hazardous areas.

To date, Winter Park Highlands Association has created a total of 90 acres of firebreaks using Colorado State Forest Service grants in 2011 and 2012 and more than 70 acres in the years before, according to Colosimo.

The association is pursuing a number of other wildfire mitigation and safety efforts that were identified by the plan including a 30,000 gallon underground water tank, emergency escape routes for multiple areas, more fuel clearing, and proper signage for individual residences.

“We feel we can have this fire mitigation tank in the ground by the end of the year,” he said.

The inadequate signage for home addresses is a major safety issue according to the Upper Fraser Valley Community Wildfire Protection Plan published in 2007.

“I was very surprised at how tough it was locate some of the addresses,” he said.

The association is installing signs at association members’ homes at no cost and is offering to install the signs at non-members’ homes for $50.

Almost all of the members of the association have had signs installed, but many vacant lots and non-member residences have not had the signs installed, he said.

The signs have been and are being installed at the end of every driveway in the Highlands area and serve multiple purposes according to Schelly Olson, public information officer for Grand Fire Protection District No. 1.

“These signs are reflective and easy to see in dark or smoky situations,” Olson said.

The signs are also noncombustible and can be used during a wildfire or other emergency, such as a medical emergency, to help locate the residence, she said.

Working together

While the Winter Park Highlands Association has taken steps to mitigate its vulnerability to wildfires, it is hard to deny the danger of wildfires to all of Grand County with the dry conditions this year.

The Grand County Fire Chiefs held a special meeting Thursday, June 28, to discuss the county’s current wildland fire response.

“We want to reassure our communities that we are all working together to protect life and property in the event of a wildfire in our area,” said Mike Long, fire chief for Grand Lake Fire Protection District. “We also want to encourage all community members to participate in wildfire preparedness due to the large number of active wildland fires in the U.S. currently.”

“Be responsible for yourself, be involved, attend meetings, educate yourself, create defensible space, these are some of the things you can do as an individual to be prepared if a wildfire were to occur,” Olson said.

Grand Fire Protection District No. 1 recently received a $1,000 grant Olson will use to produce a specialized wildland fire action guide for our area.

The guide is called “Ready, Set, Go!” and will be fine tuned to be relevant to our area, Olson said.

A generalized “Ready, Set, Go!” guide is available at local fire departments.

Everyone is receptive during the fire season and this guide will give them some answers that are specific to our area about how to be prepared if a wildfire were to occur, she said.

“The fire department is always here to help or to answer questions and we will even visit your property to provide a personalized assessment and mitigation guide,” she said.

“It is a continuous effort to make sure we do everything we can as a community to have a safe place to live, recreate, and enjoy,” Colosimo said.

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