Breckenridge, Colo residents reverse fire-safe ordinance

The residents of Breckenridge, Colorado (map) recently convinced the town council to repeal an ordinance passed in June which required homeowners to thin the vegetation around their houses. Ordinances like this are common in California and some other areas, but in the high-scale ski resort community some of the residents gathered 330 signatures on a petition asking the council to repeal the law or put it to a public vote. The council bowed to pressure and opted for the former.

One of the residents said:

People buy lots for the trees and the view. The trees are a valuable asset. Nobody wants to look at Breckenridge with no trees.

Other residents said there was little evidence that the ordinance’s provisions would be effective against a massive blaze.

Perhaps some education would be appropriate in Breckenridge, since making a home fire-safe does not require that every tree be removed. Generally, if you have a 10-15 foot spacing between the crowns of the trees a fire will not spread through the crowns, but will be limited to a ground fire, more easily suppressed. And, there is plenty of evidence that thinning vegetation, coupled with fire-safe building standards, can prevent a structure from burning during a wildfire.

The local fire district, oddly named the “Red, White, and Blue Fire Protection District“, which includes Breckenridge, promoted the ordinance and disputed the argument that creating defensible space is ineffective in fighting wildfires.

“There is plenty of science behind it”, said Capt. Kim Scott, spokeswoman for the fire district.

The Firewise site has plenty of facts about being fire safe.

During the next city council meeting, residents are going to ask the council to adopt resolutions declaring that the earth is flat, and that the 1969 moon landing was filmed in a movie studio in New Mexico. (kidding!)

Here are a couple of photos of homes that did not burn during a major wildfire, because the residents used fire-safe building materials and thinned the vegetation around the structures.

A home left standing after a fire in Clairmont, California.
A fire-safe home surrounded by vegetation that had been thinned. November 14, 2008, Santa Barbara, California. (Robyn Beck photo)