The Wildland division was established in 1998 to help protect residents, visitors and city lands form wildland fire. The City of Boulder covers 25 square miles and manages about 50,000 acres of open space and watershed. The response area of the division covers approximately 400 square miles. The division's purpose is to manage wildland fires activities on or threatening City of Boulder land.
The division was also established to carry on and expand the prescribed fire program on city lands. To help accomplish this, the division assists the Open Space and Mountain Parks Department with their ecosystem management and forest health projects.
The Division is responsible for a dual purpose training program. First, the division educates the public on wildfire prevention, mitigation and safety. Then, provide training to city employees, local, state and federal cooperators.
To accomplish this objective, the division cooperates with other city departments, and other local, county, state and federal agencies.
Topography, Climate and Vegetation
The City of Boulder covers 25 square miles and sits in a shallow valley on the western edge of the Great Plains . The city owns 41,000 acres of public land and has 80,000 acres of watershed. Boulder and its eastern lands sit on terrain that rolls gently, interrupted by small ridges and mesas. The lands and watersheds to the west of Boulder sit in foothills and mountains that rise to the Continental Divide. Boulder is 5,430 feet above sea level. South Boulder Peak, two miles west of Boulder, is 8,280 feet above sea level. The Silver Lake Watershed tops out at 13,500 feet above sea level.
- Temperatures can plunge to minus 20 degrees and hover around zero for days
- Gusts have gone as fast as 120 mph
- If airflow is from the east, moisture is forced against the mountains and heavy precipitation will follow causing a foot or more of snow
- In 2003, one March storm dropped two feet of snow in Boulder and six in the foothills
- Temperatures often climb into the 60s in January and February
- Temperatures in the summer can be blistering with highs in the lower 100s, which are usually accompanied by low humidity that can drop into the single digits at times
The river of water is the runoff from the mountain snow pack. In some years this runoff can be disastrously heavy, as it was in 1894 during Boulder's flood of record (the notorious 100 year flood) and in 1959 following a winter of record snowfall. (Source: Boulder Daily Camera, maps of Colorado and Boulder County , and William Callahan, Boulder Weather Log, Boulder Emergency Operations Plan.)
The vegetation in Boulder's lower lands is agricultural in nature with some areas of tall grass prairie. Open stands of ponderosa pine with an occasional juniper infiltrate the prairie lands where plains start to rise and become mesas. On the mesa tops, stands of ponderosa pine and Douglas fir grow increasingly dense as they meet the foothills. As the hills rise to 7,000 feet, groves of aspen begin to break up the dense stands. Between 9,000 and 10,500 feet, the foothills meet the mountains and dense stands of lodgepole pine takeover. Above this, the trees give way to fragile alpine tundra.
Historically, Boulder has seen disasters ranging from wildfire to flood, snow to wind, and civil unrest to structure fires. The most common of these are wildfire and wind. Floods have the potential to do the most damage to the city, it residences and visitors. (Source: Boulder Emergency Operations Plan)
The extremes in topography, climate and vegetation along with the high use of pubic lands and disaster history, have resulted in the need of special programs. The Boulder Fire-Rescue Wildland Fire Division is one of these.