Winter Park wildfire plan sparks interest |

Winter Park wildfire plan sparks interest

Stephanie Miller
Sky-Hi Daily News

Winter Park town staff found themselves in unfamiliar territory Thursday night when they realized there weren’t enough chairs to accommodate the 75 to 80 people who showed up at Town Hall for a public meeting.

Fire, it turns out, is a hotter topic than most.

Last night as Rod Moraga of Anchor Point presented the rough draft of the Fraser Valley’s Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP), homeowners were fixed on the colored map displayed on the projector screen showing the fire hazard ratings of each community.

The ratings are based on accessibility, the quality of roads and the types of fuels ” usually dead lodgepole pines ” in that area. Winter Park Highlands was rated “extreme,” along with Hurd Creek, Meadow Creek and Hamilton Creek.

A murmur went through the crowd.

“Is that my place?”

“I’m going to have to cut all my trees down.”

“That’s going to cost me thousands.”

As Moraga allowed time for the audience to soak in the draft CWPP, he reiterated that it was a “working document,” and that things will change depending on what the community chooses to do. It also depends on money.

“We recognize there’s cost here. We need to focus money where it will do the best for you,” Moraga said.

The CWPP focuses on all the communities located inside the East Grand Fire Protection District and Winter Park Highlands. It recommends locations for fuel breaks, the speed of a fire, topography fuels and evacuation routes, to name a few topics the document explored.

The CWPP also recommended ways to improve evacuation routes. Meadow Creek Road below the Meadow Creek community, for example, needs to be improved in order to create a secondary outlet.

“I can’t imagine anyone trying to get off from (that road),” said one local. “You have a good imagination.”

The crowd chuckled.

“That’s the kind of input we need,” Moraga said.

Moraga suggested that homeowners who live in a “very high” or “extreme” category “should start doing analysis so you know whether you need to do the work,” meaning thinning and creating defensible space around the home.

Moraga also pointed out the importance of being a good neighbor. A community must work together to mitigate fire danger, he said.

A CWPP will help educate homeowners on what they need to do, and get everyone on board.

“What you do on your property affects your neighbors. It’s very easy to say, ‘I’m willing to take the risk.’ But when you watch your entire neighborhood burn, it’s quite an impact on you,” he said.

Moraga encourages the public to view the draft CWPP, and submit comments to either himself,, or Project Manager Marc McDonald, The comment period has been extended to Nov. 30.

Once the comments are incorporated into the draft, Anchor Point hopes to have a final report by Jan. 15. One can download the draft CWPP at Fraser Valley, or stop by Winter Park Town Hall for a disc copy.

The CWPP is a collaboration of many agencies, Moraga added, including the U.S. Forest Service, the Colorado State Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management.

To learn more about defensible space and other types of fire mitigation, he encouraged community members to contact “the experts.”

“Local agencies can help,” he said.

One BLM representative pointed to a Web site ” ” that contains a lot of information about mitigation, preparing for a fire and what to do after a fire, she said. Being prepared, Moraga agreed, is how a community survives.

“You guys can’t afford to be down for a month (due to a fire). Those things happen ” people forget about that,” he said.

As more locals shared their concerns and questions filled the room, representatives of Anchor Point explained the CWPP was a guideline ” it isn’t meant to force people to mitigate their property, they said.

But Moraga said he hopes the plan stresses that as a community, the Fraser Valley ” and all of Grand County ” needs to be prepared and work together, and that the CWPP helps identify ways to do that.

“There is no one solution to this. This is an overwhelming issue,” he said. “Most people have a fire issue, but you have the beetle on top of it. The idea behind this is it helps eat the elephant. It breaks it down to little pieces that are more manageable.

“This is here to help you focus the best bang for your buck. With or without the beetle, your fires are due. It’s going to happen. You do what you can, and protect what you can.”

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