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Report: Wildfire mitigation work largely ineffective in moderating the 2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire near Boulder

Due to surface fuel accumulation, Fourmile Canyon Fire burned more intensely in some treated zones

Even widely spaced trees can readily ignite and burn when crowns extend down to the  forest  floor near surface fuels.  Photo courtesy USFS/Molly Wineteer.

This logged area in Summit County near I-70 may be more susceptible to a catastrophic crown fire because of the high concentration of surface and ladder fuels left after the treatment. Photo by Bob Berwyn.

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY —A report on the 2010 Fourmile Canyon Fire will probably raise more questions than it answers for firefighters and land managers, concluding that, in some cases, the ferocious fire near Boulder may have burned more intensely in treated areas than in adjacent untreated stands.

That may have been due to the relatively high concentration of surface fuels remaining after treatments, as well as the higher wind speeds that can occur in open forests compared to those with denser canopies, Forest Service researchers concluded in the report published last month.

Up until the horrific fire storms of this summer, the Fourmile Canyon blaze was the most destructive wildfire in Colorado history measured by the number of homes lost (162), and a recently finalized U.S. Forest Service report on the Fourmile Canyon fire is eerily prescient. Continue reading

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Report: New approach needed to prevent wildfire disasters

Fourmile Canyon Fire destroyed 35 percent of homes within fire perimeter

Even widely spaced trees can burn if the crowns extend down to the ground. PHOTO COURTESY MIKE TOMBOLATO.

More wildfires along the Front Range are inevitable, and the Forest Service wants to take lessons learned at the Fourmile Canyon Fire to try and prevent destruction of property and loss of life.

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY —The U.S. Forest Service says preventing wildfire disasters requires a change of approach, away from costly and “strategically ineffective” efforts aimed at increasing fire protection capabilities.  Instead, efforts should be focused toward reducing the ignition potential directly around homes in the wildland-urban interface.

Read more on the effectiveness of forest treatments in the comment section of this post in the New Century of Forest Planning blog.

The findings were part of a preliminary report issued this week on the Fourmile Canyon Fire. More than one-third of the homes within the perimeter the fast-moving fire near Boulder were destroyed, most of them in the first 12 hours of the blaze, according to the preliminary findings. A final peer-reviewed version of the report is scheduled to be published in January.

The condition of the home ignition zone — the design, materials and the maintenance of the home and the area 100 feet around it — was critical to whether a home survived the Fourmile Canyon Fire.  Adobe and non-wood homes where homeowners had removed flammable ground material (like pine needles, grass and even wooden decks) were likelier to survive. Continue reading

Federal grant helps cover Fourmile Canyon fire costs

A federal grant will help pay for the cost of fighting last year's Fourmile Canyon Fire, near Boulder, Colorado. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. FOREST SERVICE.

FEMA will pay $1.53 million to Colorado State Forest Service

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Colorado lawmakers in Washington, D.C. have helped open the door for a huge federal grant to help pay for the cost of fighting last year’s Fourmile Canyon fire.

The blaze started Sept. 6, 2010 and burned through Sept. 17, 2010. It was one of  the most destructive and costly fires in Colorado history.  More than 100 properties were damaged or destroyed and families are still struggling to recover from the damage.

Senator Michael Bennet today said the Colorado State Forest Service will receive a $1,153,681.50 grant from FEMA, which will cover 75 percent of the cost of containment and suppression efforts.

“The men and women who courageously fought to extinguish the flames at Fourmile Canyon, saving property and protecting lives, deserve of our thanks and continued support,” said Bennet. “With state budgets stretched thin, this relief will help alleviate the financial strain placed on the Colorado State Forest Service and Boulder County, which have done a tremendous job in protecting local communities from the devastating effects of wildfire.”

Fourmile Canyon firefighting costs at $4.9 million

Firefighter at Fourmile Canyon Fire near Boulder, Colorado.

A firefighters works to put out hot spots at the Fourmile Canyon Fire west of Boulder, Colorado.

Firefighters concentrating on hot spots

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Firefighters concentrated on mopping up hot spots at the Fourmile Canyon Fire Saturday after a night flight using infrared equipment helped pinpoint areas prone to flaring up, especially near structures.

The technique is commonly used at fires because it provides a quick and accurate overview. The results of Friday night’s flight showed several areas of isolated heat, but no large pockets of intense heat as were seen previously.

Morning ground patrols confirmed the information from the flight. Officials said the fire is 56 percent contained. Full containment is expected by Sept. 13. The fire started Sept. 6 and has burned within a perimeter spanning about 6.400 acres. The cost of fighting the fire so far is estimated at $4.9 million. More than 160 structures have been burned. Continue reading

Ritter, Udall visit Fourmile Canyon Fire

An air tanker fights the Fourmile Canyon Fire near Boulder. PHOTO COURTESY WWW.INCIWEB.ORG.

Firefighters maintain lines and protect structures during windy night

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — Firefighters at the Fourmile Canyon blaze west of Boulder worked through the night and into the pre-dawn hours on Friday morning to extinguish wind-driven flare-ups near homes in the Sunshine Canyon area.

Winds gusted as high as 30 mph, but firefighters were able to protect all threatened structures within the perimeter and maintain fire lines as a Type 1 Incident management team took command of the fire at 6 p.m. Thursday.

Friday, Governor Bill Ritter and U.S. Senator Mark Udall visited the Fourmile Canyon Fire command post. At a press conference, Ritter recognized the efforts of all those working on the fire — especially the local first responders to the incident. He encouraged those who evacuated to be patient and not try to return to their homes prematurely. Continue reading

Fire officials say Boulder fire was human-caused

An air tanker battles the Fourmile Canyon fire near Boulder. Colorado. PHOTO COURTESY U.S. FOREST SERVICE.

Exact source of ignition still under investigation

By Summit Voice

SUMMIT COUNTY — Fire officials say they believe the Fourmile Canyon wildfire was human-caused, but they are still trying to determine the exact source of ignition.

Overall fire information is updated frequently at www.inciweb.org.

The wildfire west of Boulder has spread across about 6,300 acres and destroyed more than 130 structures, making it one of the most destructive Colorado fires in recent memory. As of Sept. 8, firefighting costs had already topped $2 million. Continue reading

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