Whether you’re deciding to move ahead with fire mitigation on your Colorado property due to safety precautions, insurance regulations, building permits, or for other reasons, there are many questions that may arise when you start the process.
Where does one start?
How long does it take?
How much will it cost?
Is fire mitigation REALLY necessary?
What is my property going to look like afterwards?
In this article, we will answer those questions and more as we describe the process, talk through how fire mitigation is handled by LAM Tree Service, and go over general costs.
Keep reading to learn more!
What is Fire Mitigation?
Living in the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI) lately has become a riskier thing than when many of us moved in.
Fire has become a very common event in our fuel loaded and dry western forests. As we’ve pointed out before, much of this is self-inflicted because of our fire suppression efforts over the past 100+ years. Now we’re all being asked, and maybe even forced into doing some level of mitigation.
Colorado State Forest Service (CSFS) defines wildfire mitigation as “on-the-ground treatments of properties implemented to reduce the chance of a wildfire causing damage.”
This broadly refers to the actions taken on a property that, in the event of a fire, provide a situation where fire has little fuel to burn intensely.
The point of emphasis is to alter the fuels on the site; those fuels are usually thought of as the brush, trees, shrubs and vegetation like grasses, weeds and wildflowers that grow around our homes. This component is generally referred to as defensible space.
It can also be relocating, replacing or removing other fuels on a site though. When you look at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) checklist, they too initially discuss the vegetation growing around the structure but then they move into the other fuels on our properties. This is the “stuff” we have introduced to our environments, including:
- Houses or other structures
This component is generally referred to as home hardening.
Limiting or controlling both vegetation and other fuels in a defensible space is the basis of wildfire mitigation.
Is Fire Mitigation Actually Necessary?
Fire Mitigation is Necessary for Permits and Insurance
The hardest question to answer is always, “Is this really necessary?” For those of us that are being forced to do the work; to get a building permit for a home renovation, improvement, addition, or new construction, or if your insurance carrier told you to do some tree cutting, it is definitely necessary because those other parties are involved.
You simply won’t get your permit or keep your homeowners’ insurance if you don’t.
Fire Mitigation is Necessary if You Value Your Property
For those of us who are doing the work voluntarily, it’s necessary if you find value in the outcome. I personally believe that if all of us, as homeowners in the WUI, did our part to manage our forest, the damage and impact of a fire would be considerably less.
I also have more recently encouraged my clients and, on my own property, worked more on the areas near the roads. I have become more and more aware of the fact that a fire event can be even worse if we all cannot get to safety during an evacuation.
Fire doesn’t follow property lines and, we all could do a bit to make our neighborhoods safer. Additionally, when we do fire mitigation that is correctly done and also focused on creating a healthy forest, what is left afterward is a better all-around situation. That is, a forest that will resist disease and pest problems, is a more aesthetically pleasing landscape, and can reduce fire risk.
Fire Mitigation Results in a Healthier and Better-Looking Landscape
Ideally, as mentioned before, when mitigation is done correctly what results is a better-looking landscape. It’s healthier and has more diversity in the area. That diversity is sometimes lacking in our dense, fire-suppressed forests.
When the upper canopy becomes closed, because all the trees are overgrown from fire suppression, it doesn’t allow light to reach the ground. The diversity in the understory needs sunlight to grow and thrive. These plants are the wildflowers, shrubs and grasses that used to be present in the forest.
Fire mitigation helps the sunlight to reach the understory again.
Fire Mitigation Benefits Local Wildlife
Almost all our clients mention that after mitigation is done, they see more wildlife. This is most likely because the stuff the animals eat has grown back and the animals that are a food source for predators are there eating.
In our yard we often have bobcats, coyotes, and raptors that are looking around for dinner. Returning the forest to its pre-suppression conditions may at first seem drastic and different than the yard you had but, our experience has been that we enjoy the area more.
How Fire Mitigation Services Unfold
At LAM Tree we always start with a site visit. Before we come to the property we will need to determine the property lines, so we know any work will be done on your property.
During the site visit we will discuss the “big picture” for your site. Everything from the simplest things that most sites require often (once or more per year) like:
- Mowing or trimming down the vegetation and raking up debris near the house
- clearing off roofs
- cleaning out gutters
- disposing of the debris from these efforts
To the more difficult things that get done less frequently like:
- Replacing shake shingle roofs and other home hardening
- reducing the density of the forest closest to the home and access routes
- trimming trees away from the structure, ground, and other trees
- removing any dead trees around the property
We will be able to help with the defensible space work but, in most cases other contractors will have to be used as well, especially on the home hardening components, because we all have our specialties.
Review the Home Ignition Zone and Access Roads
For the things LAM Tree can do for you, we start with looking at the area called the home ignition zone or Zone One.
The metrics have recently changed but, the premise is still the same, little to no fuels near the home.
We also look at the access as a high priority; remember that is how you’ll get out and fire personnel will get in. That access should also include any areas where your property meets a public road; these access roads will be used by many of your neighbors during an evacuation.
Review Zones Two and Three
After this closest portion is addressed, we look further out on your property from your house. These next areas are known as Zones Two and Three and should, over time, get out to your property line with fuel reduction work.
How long does fire mitigation take?
Our Personal Experience
To help anyone that asks about how much time will be spent on mitigation I start with my personal property’s work.
My wife and I have owned two homes in the Evergreen area over a 24-year span; our first had less than an acre and our second has just about three acres. Both desperately needed some tree work, and I obviously knew what to do!
On both properties we have done the regular work (I look at this as maintenance), of keeping those reoccurring grasses, needles, leaves, and weeds from building up.
Aside from that stuff we did some larger projects where trees were thinned and hauled out.
On the smaller property this took just two visits from our crew over a four-year span to get the trees appropriately spaced and away from the house.
On our second and bigger property, we’re still working on it. In the first five years at this property the focus was on trees too close to the house, driveway, or other trees.
After that the main objective was to decide what we would like to see retained, our best trees, and cut the other trees away from them. At first, the area within 50 feet of the house and around the driveway was the focus to thin, and then we took that approach all the way out to the property line.
As this work has been getting done, our perspective has changed. Because you “can’t see the forest through the trees” we’ve found that the incremental approach has led us to keep trees we thought at first would have been candidates to remove.
For us, and many clients, the methodical approach has provided a better result.
Our Clients’ Experiences
On our clients’ properties the timeline is usually based on a budget, which sometimes means an annual visit or other times means a visit from LAM Tree every other year.
Our approach is always the same as employed on my own property, but I like to appreciate, understand, and do our best to keep the clients “best” trees.
We’re all different and some may value privacy over shade, some prefer to keep a particular type of tree or keep that tree that others find ugly. It’s your yard, keep what you love and appreciate!
As we’ve worked with folks over longer time spans, I have come to appreciate how they too change perspectives.
I recently had a client who, several years ago, was very reluctant to do mitigation.
Just recently, they hired LAM Tree to cut out some larger trees they had initially had us leave when we did the first project 14 years ago.
During that 14-year time span, they realized how much the medium sized trees had filled out and liked them much more than the big, tall trees we had saved.
They told me now that those trees had widened and gotten full; their yard was considerably more private.
How Much Does Fire Mitigation Cost?
Cost is always a key component to anything we do on our homes and properties. Most of us realize that improvements can add significant value to our investment.
Wildfire mitigation is quickly becoming something that adds to a home and property’s value.
For many new residents, homeowners’ insurance is difficult to get without some level of mitigation getting done. Some have told me they only looked at homes where mitigation had been done to avoid the problems with insuring the property.
With that said, the mitigation efforts should be something we all budget for and address often.
Fire mitigation is really never complete because plants grow back in and those trees we left will eventually die. To many of us mitigation has become something that is like painting or any other reoccurring maintenance to our home, and if we keep up on it, we won’t leave it all to be done when it’s time to sell.
Contact LAM Tree To Begin Your Fire Mitigation Process
Now that you know a bit more about what to expect when hiring LAM Tree for your fire mitigation, why wait?
Contact us today to begin the process of making your property more fire-wise, helpful for local wildlife, healthy, and beautiful.
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