Across the region, volunteers worked to protect homes from wildfires on Saturday in honor of National Community Wildfire Preparedness Day.
At the Falls Creek Ranch subdivision, in view of a hillside where homes burned in 2002, crews loaded brush in an air curtain burner and a wood chipper. In other areas crews helped clear brush.
FireWise of Southwest Colorado organized the events and works with homeowners and subdivisions throughout the year on fire mitigation, executive director Pam Wilson said.
Most of La Plata County is considered high-risk for wildfire and the group works with 85 subdivisions across the region considered high risk she said.
After the 2002 fire, the Falls Creek subdivision woke up to the need for fire mitigation, Paulette Church a member of the FireWise steering committee said. The subdivision organizes three to four big work days a year, she said.
The subdivision has encompasses more than 800 acres of land that needs to be managed and it is a slow process to improve the health of the overgrown area.
“We have 10 times the number of trees per acre that a healthy forest would sustain,” she said.
To keep structures safe FireWise advises residents to create a 6-foot buffer free of fuels, this includes removing pine needles from gutters and trimming back trees.
The Falls Creek subdivision bought hundreds of paper lawn bags to gather up pine cones and needles so they can be mixed into compost or burnt.
Needles and cones are some of the hardest things to get rid of and they are the most dangerous, Church said.
Every year the subdivision also takes out 35 to 40 trees invested with beetles each year and some with mistletoe to keep the forest healthy.
The residents are striving to create a fire-adapted community, she said.
“It’s critical for us to do this. We are experiencing a warmer climate,” she said.