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Durango receives funding to do wildfire mitigation around neighborhoods that border overgrown wildlands

$146,000 grant will help reduce fire risk near residential structures
Durango Parks and Recreation has received a $146,000 grant to mitigate fire risk in areas adjacent to residential structures. (Jerry McBride/Durango Herald file)

Durango Parks and Recreation Department has accepted a grant from the Colorado State Forest Service as part of its effort to mitigate fire hazards adjacent to residential structures.

Parks and Recreation applied for the $146,000 grant through the Fire Adapted Durango Partnership.

The mitigation money will go toward thinning and removing brush in residential areas that come up against hazardous wildlands, known as the wildland-urban interface.

“Our focus is to reduce the WUI,” said Amy Schwarzbach, natural resources director for Parks and Recreation. “That is where houses and residential structures are adjacent to open space that is undeveloped.”

In the Durango area, there are 45 acres of WUI across nine different treatment areas. According to the city, there are more than 240 residential structures adjacent to hazardous wildland.

“This grant is going to help us work around some of our high-priority areas where we have the highest density of residential structures immediately adjacent to land that has a whole lot of trees and shrubs,” Schwarzbach said.

A bid process is underway for fire mitigation work to be done in 2022.

Schwarzbach said fire mitigation is never finished, and that in recent years land management has been undergoing a sort of culture shift.

“The city has always done fire mitigation in our mountain parks. Methods we typically did were on the interior of our mountain parks to reduce fuels there,” Schwarzbach said. “In the past few decades, we’ve seen a lot of the catastrophic wildland fires across the nation really have been starting in that WUI.”

The partnership brings together the city of Durango, La Plata County, La Plata Electric Association, Durango Fire Protection District, Wildfire Adapted Partnership Colorado Division of Fire Prevention and Control, Colorado State Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S Forest Service.

“In response to the 416 Fire, our community made it very clear that Durango residents are concerned about the risk of fire,” Schwarzbach said.


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