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.
The Evergreen Area Chamber of Commerce states that Evergreen & Conifer rank #1 in Colorado and in the top 10 nationally for risk of property loss to wildfire. Paradise, CA, was #1 nationally.
That’s why we created this page to:
- explain why wildfires are becoming more of a problem,
- assess the wildfire risk in our area,
- describe how it impacts your home or business insurance, and
- provide a handy list and description of the best local resources for wildfire preparedness, mitigation, and assistance.
The Increasing Risk of Wildfires
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.
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 these resources) and take steps to protect your property – and your neighborhood – through sensible fire mitigation practices.