Little interest in fire planning

Routt, Jackson counties' landowners more apt to inquire about mitigation

Several months after completing fire plans for four Moffat County communities, Dale Thompson, owner of Resource Logic, called community members to encourage them to contact the county about implementing the plan.

He hasn't received any calls back.

Even as the county commissioners attempt to gauge community interest in continuing the fire-planning process, the people who live in the communities that have plans are demonstrating little interest in implementing the plan.

Thompson said he is not surprised that he hasn't received a response from landowners, but he doesn't think it's because people are apathetic. They just aren't sure how to proceed, he said.

"They'd like to proceed with the information, they just don't know how to do it," Thompson said.

Thompson's company wrote fire plans for Wilderness Ranch, Bakers Peak, Knez Divide and Greystone.

Now, though the county has about $180,000 in grant funds earmarked for community fire planning, the commissioners are considering not funding more plans.

In the next few weeks, the county will mail letters to residents that asks them if they want fire plans completed for their communities.

Thompson knows how hard it is to get people involved in planning. During the planning process, the county and Thompson struggled to get community members to attend planning meetings.

State Forester Terry Wattles said only two Moffat County landowners -- one from Wilderness Ranch and one from Greystone -- contacted him about grant money to build fire mitigation projects. He heard much more interest from Routt and Jackson counties' landowners.

During the past few years, the state Forest Service has given landowners $1,200 grants to build defensible space around their homes.

But the program was cut this year, and the remaining money is only enough to fund seven or eight more projects.

If the program is not renewed, homeowners are likely on their own for implementing the fire plan, Wattles said.

Depending on the density and type of vegetation surrounding a home, it can cost from $3,000 to $6,000 to pay a company to create defensible space, Wattles said.

The Forest Service has worked with the county throughout the planning process.

This fall, the agency hopes to build a firebreak between the Routt National Forest and Wilderness Ranch.

Fire Management Officer Kent Foster said he's had some informal talks with Wilderness Ranch homeowners.

He said an interest definitely exists among property owners to implement the fire plan, and some individuals have done their own projects.

But the Forest Service has not formalized any agreements for working with landowners, Foster said.

Rob Gebhart can be reached at 824-7031 or rgebhart@craig-dailypress.com.

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