Defensible Space and Home Ignition Zone FAQ
The risk of catastrophic wildfire is a real and serious threat facing those who reside in the forested areas of Boulder County. Dating back to the Black Tiger Fire of 1989, wildfires have collectively destroyed some 250 homes or other structures, burned over 16,000 acres, and threatened the lives and properties of thousands of mountain residents. In an attempt to mitigate the loss of life and property in Boulder County, the Land Use Department has included wildfire mitigation measures in the planning review and building permit process.
What are the Boulder County Wildfire Mitigation requirements?
As part of the requirements for new development in wildfire prone areas, landowners are required to have a Wildfire Mitigation Plan (WMP) for their site and implement the measures it prescribes.
Does Boulder County require homeowners to create and maintain effective defensible space?
Boulder County’s Building and Land Use Codes require individuals who are constructing a new home in forested areas, or remodeling some existing homes, create and implement a Wildfire Mitigation Plan, which includes the creation and maintenance of effective defensible space. Other homeowners are encouraged, but not required, to create and maintain effective defensible space.
What is defensible space?
Defensible space is an area between a house and an oncoming wildfire where the vegetation has been managed to reduce the wildfire threat and allow firefighters to safely defend the house. In many cases creating effective defensible space requires working with neighbors.
What is the home ignition zone?
The home ignition zone is the area of the home and its immediate surroundings. It includes both your home and your defensible space.
Who is responsible for creating and maintaining effective defensible space?
Each and every homeowner is personally responsible for creating and maintaining effective defensible space.
As a result of the County’s Site Plan Review process, tree planting and/or preservation was required for my property. Do these requirements still apply?
Yes, you will be able to create effective defensible space and a safe home ignition zone as well as maintain any required screening. If you have any questions about how to accomplish both goals, please use our Ask a Planner Form.
Does defensible space affect my homeowners insurance?
Each insurance company has its own policies and guidelines. Please contact your own insurance company to find out how defensible space affects your insurance.
What is the WUI?
WUI stands for wildland-urban interface. The WUI is an area where structures and other human development meet or intermingle with wildland vegetative fuels.
How can creating and maintaining effective defensible space help my neighbors and community?
Wildfire does not recognize property lines. If you effectively mitigate your property, you may help save your neighbor’s home and vice versa. Wildfires can impact entire communities. Linked defensible spaces are a key community protection strategy. There are specific examples in the Fourmile Fire where a family’s defensible space helped save neighboring homes and strengthen their community.
What is a CWPP?
CWPP stands for Community Wildfire Protection Plan. To learn about the Boulder County CWPP, visit the website. To read your local fire protection district CWPP visit http://csfs.colostate.edu/wildfire-mitigation/community-wildfire-protection-plans/.
What were the lessons learned from the U.S. Forest Service’s Fourmile Canyon Fire Findings?
- Residential fire protection effectiveness and enhanced life safety during extreme burning conditions depend on the HIZ conditions producing low home ignition potential.
- The HIZ is largely owned by the homeowner or homeowners in higher density residential development. That means the responsibility for reducing vulnerability to wildfire rests with the homeowner(s). Thus, WUI fire disasters cannot be prevented without homeowners actively creating and maintaining HIZs with low home ignition potential.
- Given the inevitability of wildfires on the Colorado Front Range, we have the opportunity to significantly reduce the potential for WUI fire disasters during extreme burning conditions. However, this opportunity requires a change of approach an approach focused on reducing home ignition potential within the HIZ rather than increasing expensive fire protection capabilities that have proven to strategically fail during extreme wildfire burning conditions.