Countywide fire plan to include rural landowners

Wildfires are the hot topic in Colorado this summer, but long before the fires broke out throughout the state, Moffat County officials were working on a countywide fire plan for rural landowners.

The mission of the new fire plan will be to:

"Focus on resource benefits and reduction of hazardous fuels by restoring and maintaining the natural fire regime in a manner consistent with landowner desires and safety for both the public and firefighters."

Moffat County Natural Resources Policy Analyst Jeff Comstock said the plan has been in development since May of 2001.

Comstock said the Bureau of Land Management has always had fire plans in place in which some fires are allowed to burn or are purposely started for the benefit of public land.

But if a fire moved toward private land it would have to be extinguished.

Once the new fire plan is complete there might be cases in which the fire is allowed to burn onto the private land, Comstock said.

If it has been found that the private land would benefit from fire, and the landowner has agreed that it would benefit, the fire would be allowed to burn onto the private land.

Which is why every rural landowner in Moffat County will receive a letter requesting a time to discuss a fire plan.

Comstock said the process has been split into three phases.

The first phase, in which landowners in the northwest corner of Moffat County were asked to work with the county to develop a plan, is complete.

Letters were just sent out this week for phase two of the process.

In phase two landowners near Dinosaur, Blue Mountain, Massadona, Elk Springs and Rangely will be contacted.

Phase three, which covers eastern Moffat County, will be completed this fall.

In this process each rural property owner that is interested in developing a plan will be interviewed to discuss the situation of their land and how and if it might benefit from fires.

Comstock estimated that 80 percent of people contacted in phase one responded and worked with the county in developing a plan.

"Fire can be very beneficial and a lot of landowners realize this," Comstock said.

The new wildfire management plan for private property is a new idea, Comstock said.

"There's never been an opportunity to partner with private individuals," he said.

"This plan opens up new doors between public and private. They have a lot of similar desires."

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