Wildfire in Colorado
It is not always possible to control a wildfire. Under extreme conditions, wildfires can threaten homes and other structures, infrastructure and evacuation routes. Planning and preparation can make the difference in personal safety and home protection.
What is the wildland-urban interface?
The wildland-urban interface (WUI) is any area where structures and other human development meets or intermingles with wildland vegetative fuels.
Population growth in the WUI has increased, especially in the Western U.S. The expansion of subdivisions and other high-density developments has created conditions under which local fire departments cannot possibly protect all structures during a wildfire.
Fire suppression and increased fuels
Past fire suppression and limited forest
management have produced dangerous accumulations of fuels, causing hotter and more intense fires when they burn. The arrangement of these fuels causes fire to travel to the top of the forest, rather than staying close to the ground. These crown fires are extremely threatening to soils, habitat, property and people.
In some of Colorado’s forests, naturally occurring low-intensity wildfires periodically burned through stands of trees, removing fuels and thinning out excess vegetation.
As population in the WUI has increased, so too has the difficulty of protecting that population. When fires occur in the WUI, they are suppressed to prevent the destruction of homes and other values at risk. This creates a problem because historically, some forests have depended on fire to maintain good health. Fire can thin trees and brush, and eliminate dead material. By fighting wildfires to protect homes and people, this natural process has been altered and vegetation density has increased, which provides more fuel for fires. When fires occur, the dense vegetation can burn more intensely, making it more destructive and dangerous.
How can we protect our homes?
Construction in virtually every jurisdiction in the United States is regulated by building codes for the purpose of providing minimum public health and safety standards. Non- governmental model building code organizations, such as the International Code Council (ICC) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), develop and maintain
model building codes for use by state and local jurisdictions. A model building code
is not enforceable until it is adopted by a state or local jurisdiction, with or without amendments, and becomes law. Several states, including Colorado, are “home-rule states.” Under home rule, local governments have the ability to establish their own sets of codes and standards specific to their community. Because Colorado is a home-rule state and no statewide building code has been enacted as law, local jurisdictions adopt and/or adapt their own codes.