Eagle, Vail homes get breathing room | VailDaily.com

Eagle, Vail homes get breathing room

Cliff Thompson

The homes on the steep, wooded cul-de-sac along Bighorn Creek – with their views of the cliffs and ridges overlooking East Vail – represent a Colorado dream come true.

But some fear the neighborhood could also become a death trap if a wildfire erupted, because the homes and trees are so close they’re nearly tickling each other. Friday morning, however, chainsaws signalled the start of a new push to create defenses against fire.

It involves removing trees and burnable material on about 10 acres near homes to create a less-burnable “defensible” space between the woods and the homes.

It’s part of a countywide wildland fuels reduction program that involves individual homeowners and multiple government agencies aimed at decreasing the chance homes will burn if a wildfire sweeps across the area. It’s a big problem because there are thousands of homes in the forest that would be threatened by a fire.

The Bighorn defensible space project involves seven homes and the entire project will cost $7,500. It is the third defensible space project within the town of Vail this summer. Half the project will be paid for by a grant from the Colorado State Forest Service while the remainder will be paid by homeowners..

“These defensible spaces really do make a difference if there’s a wildfire. It gives the house a chance to survive a wildfire because it creates a break in the vegetation,” said Bill Carlson, town of Vail environmental health officer who is coordinating the town’s defensible space efforts. “It also gives firefighters a safe place to fight a fire. Personnel safety is the No. 1 priority.”

A second defensible space project will be conducted north of Eagle on Eby Creek Mesa next week. This subdivision lies in a thick pinion and juniper forest. Forty homes are judged to be at risk of wildfire, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management.

Defensible spaces around the houses will be made and a total of 33 acres of trees will be cut or thinned during a five day period starting Oct. 20.

Three separate “fuel breaks,” where trees are removed, will be created.

This project, too, is a cooperative venture between the homeowners, the Bureau of Land Management, the Greater Eagle FIre Protection District, Eagle County and the town of Eagle.

Cliff Thompson can be reached at 970-949-0555 x450 or cthompson@vaildaily.com

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