The wildfire threat to the City of Boulder has been well documented. The recent California wildfires underscore the need to take action by fully assessing our risk. The curbside assessment will provide valuable data to both homeowners and incident responders as to the preparedness level of each home in the WUI and may provide motivation to homeowners to be proactive in preparing their home for a wildfire event.
This project is intended to be among the first steps in creating a Fire Adapted Community within the City of Boulder. Creating Fire Adapted Communities is one of three tenants of the National Cohesive Strategy to prepare for wildfires (the other two being resilient landscapes and improving fire response).
How Are Assessments Done?
The initial curbside assessment will be conducted by uniformed BFR personnel during business hours from the viewpoint of the street, sidewalk or public property, and will not access private property. The curbside assessments are designed to capture a general impression of how well each home is prepared for a wildfire event.
The department will make notifications to homeowners before the project begins in their neighborhood. Homeowners and renters who wish to improve their rating or learn more about how to better prepare their home against the threat of a wildfire can schedule a free detailed assessment at any time.
Wildfire Home Assessment Curbside Glossary
Based on your curbside assessment, this is a cumulative value of the below factors that determined this “snapshot view” of your home’s potential vulnerability to a wildland fire.
Having a clearly visible address allows responders to quickly identify your property. During a large urban-interface fire scenario, addresses are often used as landmarks to allow responders to communicate locations, threats, and needs.
Fire trucks come in a lot of shapes and sizes (Type 1 being some of the largest, Type 6 resembling an oversized pickup truck, and Type 3 in between). We’ve estimated which can access your property based on one-way or dead-end road, turn around, roundabout and clearance. This isn’t something you have a lot of control over, and it doesn’t have a big impact on your overall hazard rating, but it helps us with pre-response planning.
Structures such as sheds, dog houses, etc., if not properly cared for can potentially be a hazard to the main structure if they were to catch fire. A home well prepared for a wildland fire by itself may be susceptible to ignition if the auxiliary structure were to become involved.
From our curbside view, we assessed roof type (i.e. metal, wood, asphalt, etc.), roof condition (gaps, cracks, flashing), and accumulated debris, such as pine needles and dry leaves, on the roof as well as the potential gutters.
Apart from perhaps vinyl or wood shake, siding type is less important than condition. If cracks, gaps, age, and rot allow for potential ember entrance into the siding, this can be a high potential area for home ignition.
Wood fences can act like a fuse if they catch fire, so if directly attached to the home, they can lend to a higher probability of home ignition. Things that would improve this would be flashing between the fence and the home or a gate, that when opened could “break” the fuse.
Recent studies have shown that in many cases, the home survives the initial flaming front, only to ignite from smoldering fire in mulch or vegetation right next to the home that slowly creeps into the structure itself. Hardscaping this zone (0-5 ft.), directly adjacent to, and around the entire perimeter of the structure has proven one of the best things a homeowner can do.
Fuel loading is the amount of combustible vegetation and/or debris. In wildland fire, anything that is available to burn (grass, pine needles, sticks, logs, trees, brush, and sometimes structures) is considered fuel. In the urban setting, Zone 1 is often an individual’s entire property.
Like the previous question, but we’re specifically looking at things such as wooden or wicker furniture, wood piles, or anything else combustible that doesn’t fall into the “vegetation” category.
This one carries some weight toward your overall score and we either answer it with; “Yes,” which means that, if the juniper were to ignite it would directly threaten your home. “Yes, but no factor,” means that if the juniper were to ignite it would not directly threaten your home (which means that the juniper must be quite a long way from any structure and pretty much by itself.) Lastly, “No,” meaning you don’t have any junipers. Although popular for landscaping, Juniper is one volatile vegetation. It burns with very little heat exposure, and puts off some very threatening flame, as well as embers. We call it the gasoline of wildland fuels.
If grass is present, we assess its condition such as, is it mowed, maintained, and irrigated or brown, crispy, and tall. Surface fuels such as grass and other ground covers (pine needles, leaves, etc.) are big carriers of wildfire. Continuous “beds” of combustible fuel really allow for fire to spread rapidly.