The City of Durango continues to mitigate the risk of wildland fire on City-owned lands, nurture healthy forests and watersheds, and support community-wide programs that jointly help make Durango a fire adapted community.
The Parks, Open Space, Trails and Recreation Master Plan identifies a key principal in the management of open space lands preserved by the City including ongoing fire management and healthy forest initiatives. With a long history of stewardship activities that reduce the risk of wildfire while fostering healthy forest stands, the City is poised to continue this work into the future. Open Space sales tax funds allow the City to leverage tax dollars as matching funds for grants or to fully fund projects, typically undertaken in partnership with adjacent public land managers to ensure project success through shared expertise, resources and treatment methods.
Stewarding healthy and fire resilient forests goes beyond removing hazardous fuels. Activities carried out by the Parks and Recreation Department on open space lands include mitigation of noxious weeds, protection of wetlands and river corridors, and reductions of ignition risk by managing recreation and public access.
In the wake of the 416 Fire, the City formed a new collaborative partnership called the Fire Adapted Durango Partnership, made up of fire experts and public land managers, in order to focus on reducing the risk of fire in the Durango Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) on City-owned lands. Click here to view the public presentation regarding this Partnership and the first two treatments areas identified for fuels reduction. Risk analysis and treatment planning is ongoing, with fire mitigation in the WUI extending into the coming years.
Community-wide safety such as fire mitigation is much more successful when joint forces partner to make it happen. Each entity brings significant and different expertise and capacity to the Partnership:
- City of Durango is the Partnership coordinator and the landowner of the open space where current fire mitigation in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) is underway. The City analyzed fire risk of City open space, conducts public engagement/education & inter-departmental planning, secures project funding, and coordinates fire mitigation work.
- Bureau of Land Management Tres Rios Field Office is the largest adjacent landowner to City-owned open space and brings extensive wildland fire mitigation expertise in the Partnership. The BLM provides guidance on analysis of risk throughout the City open space system, provides funding opportunities & equipment use, conducts fire mitigation on adjacent lands.
- Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) provides fire mitigation and forest health prescriptions for each vegetation and terrain type and provides key direction to sawyer crews in selecting what fuels to cut and what to leave in place.
- Durango Fire Protection District (DFPD) & Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control (DFPC) bring sawyer crews and the safety of fire engines to carry out the boots on the ground activities. DFPD provides education about safe access for fire fighters in and around structures.
- Wildfire Adapted Partnership (WAP) is key to educating private landowners on mitigating fire risk and creating defensible space on their private property and connects landowners to resources to mitigate risk on their private property.
- La Plata County (LPC) is the second largest adjacent landowner to the City. In the Partnership, LPC provides substantial equipment and capacity support in the physical removal of hazardous fuels. LPC is also very active in county-wide collaborations focused on fire safety and forest and watershed health.
- San Juan National Forest (SJNF) is one of the largest landowners and most extensive forest management and fire experts in the Durango area. SJNF lands abut BLM lands, which form a contiguous block of public land with City lands in some locations. Wildland fire mitigation planning assistance from SJNF to the Partnership includes fire behavior modeling, loan of equipment, insight into large-scale mitigation projects and contractors, and federal funding opportunities.
- La Plata Electric Association (LPEA) provides electrical power to Durango, with transmission lines and corresponding easements forming the perimeter of City limits in the Durango WUI. LPEA policies address reducing the risk of fire under and around the transmission lines, and LPEA sawyers remove hazardous fuels in the transmission easements located on City owned property and adjacent lands.
- Durango residents adjacent to City lands contribute to community-wide fire safety by reducing the risk of fire on their properties through the creation of defensible space around their homes. Neighborhood ambassadors are recruited by the City to assist in education as the Partnership conducts fire mitigation on adjacent City-owned lands.
Being a fire adapted community does not stop at public land boundaries but extends onto privately owned lands. The City of Durango Land Use and Development Code requires that proposed developments located in the WUI shall provide and implement a wildfire hazard mitigation plan. Click here to read this section of the Code.
The City also offers Spring and Fall Clean-ups, when private landowners can have brush cut from their properties hauled away at no additional cost. Durango residents can also arrange for Bulk Pick Up by the City to haul cut brush for a minimal fee.
Homeowner resources for mitigating risk of fires on their private land are available through our local Wildfire Adapted Partnership (WAP) and more information can also be found online from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
Fire mitigation activities and collaborations that contribute to community safety and regional forest and watershed health include La Plata County Community Planning Assistance for Wildfire (CPAW) and the Rocky Mountain Restoration Initiative (RMRI), both of which the City is actively involved with.