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Expert offers advice on ways to replant while protecting homes from future wildfires

Posted: 12:21 PM, Jul 23, 2018
Updated: 2018-07-23 18:21:00Z

JEFFERSON COUNTY — Mountain homes and forests go hand in hand, but keeping trees right next to a house can pose a major risk if a wildfire ignites nearby.

As Colorado homeowners evacuated for the wildfires start to assess the damage outside their houses, experts are providing tips for how to strategically replant the area without increasing the risk of damage in a wildfire. In addition, Jefferson County is offering a slash collection in the county each weekend until October to help residents get rid of flammable natural debris.

“Most of the time when homes were built along the Front Range, it was really a thing to live right in the forest,” said Bret Roller with Rolling R Ranch company. “People wanted a tree where they could reach out the window and touch it… Living in a place like that is magical, but at the same time, it puts everything in jeopardy, having trees that close to the home.”

Homeowners can replant with a strategy to keep their houses safe while also enjoying the forests they love, he said.

The most important zone to address on the property is the one right against the house, he said, which is called the first zone.

“If a person is able to go out and cut the trees and push back the shrubs and rake up the pine needles and put (a) gas can away, they increase their safety immediately,” he said. “As time goes by, if you keep working on those zones and keep working out further and further from the house doing that necessary mitigation, you can eventually have the whole thing done and a much higher level of security.”

The second zone can handle sparse trees and shrubs, though they should be spaced out so the fire doesn’t have a natural chain to follow, he said.

“If the fire doesn’t have the fuel it needs to draw itself right to your home, your home stands a better chance of surviving the fire,” he said.

The thick forest falls in the third zone.

“It’s great that people are starting to wake up and see the importance of mitigation and the fire mitigation people are doing really works,” Roller said. “It’s been proven time and time again as these fires come through. It’s never going to be perfect, but if you’re able to give the firefighters kind of a foothold and place to start, they’re remarkable with what they can do. The bravery — it can’t be overstated.”

As homeowners clear their land, they are welcome to bring slash, or natural debris like tree limbs, prunings and pine needles, to collection sites around the county.

The Jefferson County Slash Collection attracts an over-whelming response each weekend, Roller said. Residents in the county and beyond are welcome to bring the slash to the collection site on Saturdays and Sundays. On Mondays, the materials are processed and grinded down. It’s taken to a third-party compost facility, where it’s mixed with other natural waste to become a soil amendment, he said.

“We don’t send anything to the landfill at all,” he said.

The collection cannot take tree debris that exceeds 8 feet long and 6 feet wide, according to the county. Construction materials, lumber, household trash, metal materials, rocks, tree stumps and yard waste are not accepted at the Jefferson County Slash Collection.

Fees for dumping are based on size. Six cubic yards of materials equals one load, which costs $20 to drop off. That amount is roughly equivalent to a truck bed full to truck cab height, according to the county. Loads outside that amount will be charged accordingly. Only credit cards are accepted.  

The Jefferson County Slash Collection is scheduled to come to the following locations:

  1. July 28 and 29: Golden Gate Canyon Grange
  2. Aug. 4 and 5: JeffCo Evergreen Road & Bridge Shop
  3. Aug. 11 and 12: JeffCo Indian Hills Road & Bridge Shop

Click here for other dates or use the map below to see where the next collection is scheduled for setup.