Breckenridge rethinks protecting homes from wildfires
BRECKENRIDGE – The only public comment during Tuesday’s Breckenridge Town Council “defensible space” hearings came in opposition to repealing the contentious ordinance that mandated firebreaks around homes.
The past few months, outrage from the other side – in favor of striking down the ordinance – had dominated the firebreak discussions.
Their petition had put the issue back before council: to repeal the legislation or leave it up to the voters. Council decided to repeal and replace the ordinance with a voluntary option.
“The group that wanted it mandatory didn’t organize or get the message out in an effective way,” said Gary Gallagher, president of Highland Park Homeowner’s Association, who supported the mandatory version.
Council on Tuesday passed unanimously the final votes repealing the mandatory – and approving the voluntary – legislation.
“If I thought we could win this thing, I’d take it to the mat. But I just don’t think we can,” Councilman Jeffrey Bergeron said of the ordinance that took a year of preparation before council approved the final version.
The residents speaking in support of the mandatory ordinance said the opposition had spread misinformation, such as a 30-foot clear-cut requirement.
The ordinance – now voluntary – calls for trees or groups of trees within 30 feet of a structure to be well-spaced by about 10 feet and well-pruned. Representatives from the Red, White and Blue Fire District prescribe where cutting is necessary to create the firebreak.
John Quigley, president of Shock Hill Homeowners Association, said he’s “very upset” with the repeal of the mandatory ordinance.
“Everyone has to participate,” he said.
He cited Vail Fire Department’s statement that defensible space paid off in containment of a small wildfire last weekend.
Vail Fire Chief Mark Miller said Wednesday that the town has worked for several years with the Colorado State Forest Service to create defensible space around the town. But the only mandate to homeowners is that they remove dead trees through a plan approved by the town – similar to legislation already in place for beetle-kill trees in Breckenridge.
Vail’s Wildland-Urban Interface Defensible Space Plan breaks areas around town into nine segments, with treatments based on geography and vegetation. Some 309 acres have been treated, and more information is available at http://www.vailgov.com.
Breckenridge Councilman Dave Rossi, one of two who voted against the mandatory ordinance in June, said Tuesday that the legislation is a matter of “striking a balance between personal responsibility and government prescription.”
He said he hopes the town, with the help of the Breckenridge Defensible Space Task Force, is able to come up with something voluntary “that actually works.”
There’s been talk of requiring defensible space and firewise materials for new construction in town limits.
Folks interested in serving on the task force may submit their name, phone number and e-mail address to Jenn Cram at email@example.com or (970) 547-3116.
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