Grant Funds Available for Fire Mitigation

October 20, 2023

WIIN grant funds are available to private landowners within the mapped program area in the Florida River watershed who complete a free home wildfire risk assessment and hire a contractor to complete wildfire mitigation on their parcel. La Plata County's goal is to protect the Florida River, improve emergency response and evacuation times and reduce the threat of severe wildfire. By Connor Shreve. This story is sponsored by Sky Ute Casino and Tafoya, Barrett & Associates

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Durango has managed to get through the summer without serious wildfire. But lately that's a rarity. And it doesn't mean we shouldn't keep looking at fire as a long-term issue. It's particularly important for those who live on land on the outskirts of town with an acreage amount that might be hard to handle for a single homeowner. However, there is grant funding available to help those who want to get fire mitigation work on their property. You're watching "The Local News Network" brought to you by Sky Ute Casino and Tofoya Barrett and Associates. I'm Connor Shreve. Homeowners along the Floreta River Watershed are eligible for fire mitigation reimbursement money from the Wildfire and Watershed Protection Fund, a partnership between the city of Durango, La Plata County and the Durango Fire Protection District. The goal is to complete fire mitigation on a large scale.

So tackling mitigation in a way that connects parcel to parcel cross boundary between private lands and public lands, so that when there's a fire, so much of that land has mitigation on it, that the fire behavior's reduced.

La Plata County Wildfire and Watershed Protection Fund Coordinator, Alison Layman is working on expanding grant offerings to increase incentives for homeowners who sign up for fire mitigation work. You can sign up online to start the process which begins with a wildfire risk assessment.

That's when an assessor looks at your home as well as the landscape around your home. Or what's called a home ignition zone, and talks to you about ways that you can reduce your risk of fire. We'll look at entire parcels. Ideally, what we want is that landscape scale treatment.

That's where Pete Malberg comes into the process. The owner of Tangled Oak Fire Mitigation a company that's been hired on a number of these grant funded mitigation projects. He says some of the sites he gets to are in bad shape.

This property was a really good example of how they couldn't walk around on their property. When I looked at it, I walked most of the property and it was tripping and getting tangled in bushes and my boots probably didn't touch dirt very often, if at all.

So he went about thinning trees, bushes and ground cover first around the home before extending his work out across the property. And what's striking, at least on this property is how much better looking and usable the grounds became. So there is a matter of function to the work, but form is a consideration too. Malberg says he works with homeowners to preserve what they want in the process. Whether that's a break from a road or privacy from a neighbor. Layman says a fire nearby would devastate Durango just from a water perspective.

So behind me, the Floreta River, this river is drinking water for the city. It's the irrigation water for a lot of the agriculture and farmers in the county, provides the water for the airport. That list goes on.

The work is aimed at improving things like response and evacuation times, and ultimately safety. Malberg says after the initial mitigation work, management becomes much easier.

This year we had, you know, a lot of moisture. Some grasses are this tall and and that's a ladder fuel. So when you got to keep that stuff kind of knocked down and out of the way, but at least now they can get around on this property and be able to do that without huge effort.

With efforts underway to expand mitigation funding it's something landowners might want to keep in mind through the fall and into next spring. Especially if you are on larger acreage near Durango.

The grant process is that once you've had that assessment and understand the scope of work, you'll hire a contractor of your choice, but not until you've gone through a bid process and then shared that bid with our program. So we can determine an award amount.

You can apply for the grant on the La Plata County website. Learn more about this story and others online at DurangoLocal.News. Thanks for watching this edition of "The Local News Network". I'm Connor Shreve.


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