Many long-time residents have experienced wildfires in the Evergreen, CO area – some too close for comfort. And you’re not alone. In fact, about half of Colorado’s residents live in a wildfire-prone area.
According to Colorado State University, wildfires in Colorado have worsened over the last 60+ years. In the ’60s and ’70s, wildfire destroyed less than 100,000 acres per decade. That rose to over 200,000 acres per decade during the ’80s and ’90s. For the 2000s, the total was approximately 1,000,000 acres and there’s little indication that this upward trend will turn around any time soon.
For perspective, check out this list of the largest, most destructive Colorado wildfires since 1950, which shows most of these fires occurring during the last 10 years
Why Is Wildfire Damage Getting Worse?
Research by scientists at Oregon State University and Utah State University shows that fire suppression has served to make forests denser and less tolerant of drought, pests, and wildfires.
Before 1910, low-severity forest fires occurred frequently and played a key role in keeping forests more open. With fewer trees and less competition for resources, trees such as ponderosa pine survived for centuries, withstanding drought, fire, insects and more.
In 1910, fire suppression became mandated under federal policy. That, combined with grazing, logging and land-use changes, completely changed the make up of our dry mountain forests. Shade-tolerant (understory) and fire-intolerant tree species have moved in, creating crowded conditions where trees compete for limited resources. As a result, there’s less water reaching deep into the soil and trees are showing signs of drought stress and becoming more susceptible to bark beetle outbreaks.
Compounding the problem is the impact of climate change, which decreases the length of the snow season. Scientists have also shown that higher-density forests reduce snowpack across our mountain ranges. With less snow, these denser forests don’t receive the water needed to keep them healthy.
The younger, drought-sensitive trees that have grown since fire suppression started are more likely to die, creating fuel for wildfires. Older trees are weaker and so are more vulnerable to fire damage.
All of these factors combine to create a continuously escalating risk of severe wildfires in the dry mountain forests around Evergreen and throughout Colorado.
How Serious Is The Wildfire Risk Around Evergreen?
According to the CO Wildfire Risk Assessment Portal (CO-WRAP), the area around Evergreen has a high to very-high fire intensity rating. That means we can expect large (up to 30 ft) to very large (up to 150 ft) flames that generally cannot be effectively attacked by firefighters, engines or dozers. Those types of fires have significant potential for harm or damage to life and property and extensive preparedness measures are needed to protect your home and property.
You can use the CO-WRAP web portal to get an indication of the wildfire risk for your neighborhood. Visit the website at www.ColoradoWildfireRisk.com to generate a map showing details such as the likelihood of an acre burning, potential fire intensity, historic fire occurrence and values at risk from wildfire.
As Wildfire Damage Increases, So Do Insurance Costs
As more and deadlier fires sweep through Colorado, it’s becoming harder to get home insurance on a property surrounded by forest, reachable only by back roads, or on slopes where a wildfire is likely to run.
Forest, quiet back roads, hills – that describes much of the area around Evergreen and is one of the reasons people choose to move to this beautiful part of the state. But it’s also what puts us at greater risk for wildfire damage.
Many insurance companies now require fire mitigation on your property before agreeing to provide homeowner insurance coverage.
Wildfire Resources for Evergreen Homeowners
Income Tax Subtraction for Wildfire Mitigation Measures
If your property is located in a wildland-urban interface area, you may qualify to receive a federal tax subtraction for the costs of wildfire mitigation work. This applies to income tax years 2009 through 2024. For qualifications and limitations under the Wildfire Mitigation Measures Subtraction, please visit the Colorado Department of Revenue.
Evergreen Fire Protection District Community Wildfire Protection Plan
This strategic plan, developed in 2007, identifies specific wildland fire hazards and risks facing communities and neighborhoods, and provides prioritized mitigation recommendations that are designed to reduce those hazards and risks. The local community or neighborhood is responsible for implementing the action items but you’ll find plenty of useful advice and actions you can take yourself to lower fire risk.
Firewise USA™ is a national recognition program that provides instructional resources to inform people how to adapt to living with wildfire and encourages neighbors to work together and take action to reduce their wildfire risk.
Evergreen Fire Rescue (EFR) Wildfire Resources
EFR provides links to a number of information resources to help you minimize wildfire risk and to help EFR protect the Evergreen community from the threat of a wildfire disaster.
Jefferson County Fire Info
To best stay informed before, during and after a disaster (such as a wildfire) you should monitor a number of information sources, including systems such as local emergency services websites (see below), warning sirens, SMS/text alert systems, local/national media outlets, and local government sources.
Jefferson Alerts – click to sign up for text, SMS, email or mobile alert systems
24 Hr Contact: 303-277-0211
- Arvada – 720-898-6875
- Golden – 303-384-8090
- Lakewood – 303-987-7118
- Littleton – 303-795-3908
- Westminster – 303-658-4550
- Wheat Ridge – 303-235-2931
The Bottom Line
Both the frequency and severity of forest fires are growing across the western states, especially here in Colorado. The best things you can do are to be aware of wildfire alerts (see the resources above) and take steps to protect your property – and your neighborhood – through sensible fire mitigation practices.
Above all – stay safe!