Garfield County updating wildfire plan

A county with a history of destructive and sometimes deadly wildfires has begun updating its plan for identifying and reducing the risk from such fires and improving the response to them.

Garfield County Emergency Management is conducting an online public survey and will be holding community outreach meetings on the Community Wildfire Protection Plan, which is scheduled for completion in March following release of a draft plan in January.

Walsh Environmental Scientists and Engineers LLC is working on the plan under a $50,000 contract with the county.

Some fire departments in the county already have plans of their own. The county one will help them in coordinating with each other and nearby communities in preparing for fires and responding to them. Also, entities having such plans receive priority in getting grants for things such as reducing flammable vegetation and acquiring firefighting training and equipment.

Some of the more notable fires in the county include:

The 1994 fire on Storm King Mountain west of Glenwood Springs, in which 14 firefighters died.

the 2002 Coal Seam Fire, which was ignited by an underground coal fire and destroyed about 30 homes in the Glenwood Springs area and burned more than 12,000 acres.

The 1976 Battlement Creek Fire, in which three firefighters were overrun by flames and killed a day after a pilot died in a crash while fighting the fire from the air.

“Garfield County is kind of unique because of the high incidence of natural-caused wildfires, such as from lightning or burning coal seams or whatever,” said Jerry Barker, a senior scientist, plant ecologist and project manager with Walsh Environmental.

A fairly heavy load of flammable vegetation such as oak brush and cheatgrass adds to the danger, he said.

He hopes the county’s history of wildfires will inspire more community involvement with the county plan.

“The issue is: Wildfire is going to occur there, it is going to be part of the environment there, and homeowners need to be aware of that, and they need to understand how to protect themselves and their properties,” Barker said.

He said the public meetings will be used to provide homeowners with more information on actions they can take, such as creating defensible spaces around homes and outbuildings and using fire-resistant materials such as metal, tile or fiberglass-shingle roofs.

For more information on the planning project and a link to the survey, go to


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