Firefighting, Leadership

USFA Showcases 2001 Award Recipient Project

Washington, D.C.-The United States Fire Administration (USFA), in cooperation with the Colorado Springs Fire Department, has announced a 2001 Assistance To Firefighters Grant Program award success story. Following receipt of a 2001 grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the Colorado Springs Wildland Risk Management office was able to move forward with program development of FireWise-Colorado Springs.

The Colorado Springs FireWise program benefits the local fire service by providing important wildfire mitigation information in a risk management format to homeowners. Not only does the FireWise project increase the wildfire preparedness of a community, but this program also provides a higher level of safety for wildland firefighters. Through the creation of defensible space, vegetation management and “hardened” structures, some of the hazards encountered in suppressing a wildfire are reduced. The program’s comprehensive format can easily be adapted and implemented by other fire departments or agencies.

FireWise was developed through the Colorado Springs Fire Department’s Wildland Risk Management Office. Program design includes risk management strategies, GIS, vegetation management and a customized FireWise message that is adapted specifically to the local topography, fuels, homes, zoning codes and ordinances. The program’s mission is to create awareness of the wildfire danger, deliver information to homeowners that will assist in reducing their risk, engage the public in taking an active role in creating a safer wildland environment and positively influence attitudes and behaviors.

Using the wildfire hazard risk evaluation data collected in 2000, with additional data assessment items gathered through the use of GIS, the data was processed through the WHINFOE model and wildfire risk ratings were established for homes identified within the city’s wildland-urban interface.

A core advisory group was established in February 2000 to provide stakeholders an opportunity to interact and express concerns. Stakeholders consisted of representatives from City & County Government, Colorado Springs Utilities, U.S. Forest Service-Pikes Peak Ranger District, Colorado State Forest Service, Division of Natural Resources and local fire protection agencies. Following the group meetings, three public meetings were held in the third and fourth quarters of 2000 to present results of the preliminary risk evaluations and gather citizen input. During 2000, Colorado Springs Fire Department staff performed 44,329 wildfire hazard risk evaluations on homes identified in the city’s area of study.

Providing detailed information 24/7, and complementing it through support during business hours, reaches more individuals and increases participation. Using an adult education model, property owners are encouraged to take action and become involved in “Sharing the Responsibility”. Risk management activities include GIS, Development and Review and Vegetation Management.

The FireWise interactive Web site (http://csfd.springsgov.com) has more than 44,000 wildfire risk evaluations by parcel and was released to the public June 12, 2002. Homeowners now have access to their individual wildfire risk parcel rating and are encouraged to also view ratings for the overall neighborhood. Vegetation management techniques are available on the site and when the suggested work is completed the FireWise office can be contacted to schedule a new evaluation.

Since May 2002, FireWise Colorado Springs has been presented to more than seven hundred individual homeowners through neighborhood/homeowner’s association groups, civic organizations and public venues.
Future goals and objectives include:

  • Continuing work with homeowners to develop attitude changes and behavior modification through FireWise activities
  • Multispectral Imagery of assets at risk and adjacency to natural fuels
  • Vegetation management activities at the neighborhood level
  • Prescription fuels reduction
  • Preservation easement negotiations
  • Intra-agency planning with Colorado Springs Utilities and city parks and open space
  • Collaborate with local builders and the Home Builder’s Association to assist with developing a FireWise home in the 2003 HBA Parade of Homes
  • Develop FireWise seminars for area landscapers, nurseries, etc.
  • Recognize neighborhood FireWise Champions

The USFA is working to publicize grant success stories from 2001 and 2002. If you are aware of successes, or would like to join this effort of demonstrating the impacts of the Assistance to Firefighters Grant Program, please contact Tom Olshanski at, [email protected].