Could the Marshall Fire happen in Golden?

Golden residents, business owners must harden properties against wildfires

Corinne Westeman
cwesteman@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 7/4/22

With about 50 people sitting in City Hall and more watching online, Fire Marshal Scott Case started the meeting by addressing “the 6,000-acre elephant in the room.”

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Could the Marshall Fire happen in Golden?

Golden residents, business owners must harden properties against wildfires

Posted

With about 50 people sitting in City Hall and more watching online, Fire Marshal Scott Case started the meeting by addressing “the 6,000-acre elephant in the room.”

“Most of us are here and interested in the (Community Wildfire Protection Plan) because of the Marshall Fire … and how it relates to us here in Golden,” Case said.

On June 29, the city hosted a meeting about its recently updated Community Wildfire Protection Plan. It will be hosting smaller meetings in July to address specific neighborhoods’ risk factors and steps property owners can take to mitigate those risks.

The CWPP was first released in 2007 and updated again last year. In its 2021 update, Golden Fire Chief Jerry Stricker said the city incorporated lessons learned from 2012’s Waldo Canyon Fire and beyond, “all the way up to the Marshall Fire.”

“This plan was in its final edits on Dec. 30,” Stricker said.

As to whether the Marshall Fire could happen in Golden, Case said it’s unlikely the Front Range will ever see something like that again. The fire that caused two deaths and destroyed 1,000 homes between Louisville and Superior was the combination of several extraordinary circumstances occurring simultaneously.

December 2021 was incredibly dry. Dec. 30 had no snow cover but saw sustained 100mph winds. Under those conditions, Case said no mitigation efforts would’ve helped.

“It wasn’t going from tree to tree — it was going from house to house,” he continued.

Case and his colleagues encouraged residents to focus on “the fires we can affect” by following the CWPP recommendations to create defensible spaces around their homes and businesses.

Firefighters must make split-second decisions on whether a structure can be defended safely, GFD leaders explained. If it’s not, they will focus on other, easier-to-defend structures.

Community members are highly encouraged to read the full community wildfire protection plan and complete the mitigation measures outlined in it by visiting GuidingGolden.com/cwpp

Assessing Golden’s risks

The CWPP also outlines every neighborhood’s wildfire hazard rating, with Golden Southwest scoring the highest at 28 out of 50.

Case clarified that scores aren’t based on how likely a wildfire is to happen in that area. Instead, it’s based on several factors, such as flammability of building materials, the number of ingress/egress points, and water availability.

The Rooney Road area, for example, received a 23 rating because it has one egress point, the roads aren’t fully paved, and there’s no water available.

While the city and residents can work together to address these risk factors throughout the community, Golden ranks lower in terms of overall risk than other parts of the county. Officials said the dense forests around Evergreen and Conifer have the highest wildfire risk throughout all Jeffco.

“We’re not in a forest — we sit at the bottom of a valley,” Case continued. “Some things are working in our favor. Our scores aren’t in the 40s.”

However, because Golden’s essentially surrounded by parks and open space, it’s more likely to see a grassfire than a forest fire.

Grassfires burn very quickly, so what’s next to the grass is the biggest concern, as Jeffco Open Space Director Tom Hoby said. Whether it’s a fence, a tree, or a structure, that’s the next set of fuels that can catch on fire, he continued.

To that end, Golden residents need to prepare via the CWPP’s three tenets: mitigation, notification and evacuation.

Residents and business owners should assess their individual properties for wildfire risk and create defensible spaces. To discard unwanted materials, residents were encouraged to use Jeffco Open Space’s slash collection program or the city’s curbside composting service.

Community members should also sign up for LookoutAlert emergency notifications — which took the place of CodeRED — and neighborhoods should create coordinated evacuation plans. Community members should also attend their neighborhood-specific wildfire protection meeting, which will be outdoors so residents and officials can go over specific items together.

For more information, visit GuidingGolden.com/cwpp.

golden, wildfire, wildfire mitigation, wildfire protection, wildfire risks, risk assessment, marshall fire

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