Summit homeowners unite in defense against wildfires | AspenTimes.com

Summit homeowners unite in defense against wildfires

Nicole Formosa
Summit County correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

Paul Cada, a forester with the Colorado State Forest Service, designates lodgepole pines to be cut down as part of fire mitigation taking place by property owners on Peak 7. (Mark Fox/Summit Daily News)

SUMMIT COUNTY ” Armed with a $50,000 grant from Summit County, Peak 7 homeowners have their sights set on protecting their homes from the devastation of a possible wildfire.

The group is organizing a defensible space project designed to thin out areas along the National Forest boundary, creating a buffer zone between homes and Forest Service land.

The initial phase of the project will include 22 acres on 31 properties, which all border the National Forest, between Ski Hill Rd. and American Way, said Peak 7 homeowner Kathie Kralik, who’s heading up the project.

On Wednesday morning, homeowners met with county wildfire mitigation officer Patti Maguire and representatives from the local fire department and the Colorado State Forest Service to mark trees on six properties for removal.

The group will then be taking bids from tree contracting services who can start downing trees as early as this winter.

Homeowners will match the money provided by the county, as well as schedule community work days to help with the project next spring.

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Kralik hopes to apply for another grant to help pay for a second phase of the project, and maybe save some money from this round of funding to put toward other nearby subdivisions.

“Our hope is to spread it out to as many homes as possible,” Kralik said.

Without a homeowners association on Peak 7 as the authority for a defensible space project, Kralik started educating her neighbors by hanging up flyers telling of the grant money available.

The calls started flooding in with people interested in taking part in the project, so she submitted a grant proposal to the county, and found out a couple weeks ago they won the money.

“This is the first organized effort up here,” Kralik said.

The Peak 7 fuel reduction project is one of nine projects the Summit County Wildfire Council recommended for funding in this latest round of grants, according to Maguire.

A total of $192,000 was split among Boulder Creek homeowners, Hamilton Creek HOA, Keystone Science School, Mesa Cortina property owners, Ptarmigan homeowners, Summit County Open Space, Summit Estates HOA, The Pines HOA and Peak 7.

The money comes from the Board of County Commissioners, the Colorado State Forest Service and money from House Bill 1130, which has specific guidelines about how it can be used. Money from the legislation must be used to address good forest health, watershed protection and fuel reduction, and projects must incorporate the Colorado Conservation Youth Corps whenever possible.

“This program is not specifically for mountain pine beetle treatment and does not cover the cost of preventive spraying, Maguire said.

The wildfire council will reimburse a homeowners group up to 50 percent of a total project cost, up to the award amount, Maguire said.

The BOCC began awarding matching grants to local HOAs and neighborhoods last summer, and has given out about $382,000 to date. It received a $140,000 boost from House Bill 1130 over the summer.