Let it burn?


Despite wildfires smoldering across the West in recent weeks (outside of Denver, in Southern California, and near Arizona’s Kitt Peak Observatory), one Colorado town is backing off on wildfire protection.

Breckenridge, Colo., a mountain resort town about 80 miles southwest of Denver, this week revoked an ordinance requiring homeowners to thin vegetation and remove trees around their homes to reduce fire danger, reported the LA Times. Similar ordinances are routine for Californians but unusual in other Western states.

Breckenridge residents, concerned that the law would hurt property values, encroach on property rights and require expensive tree removals, submitted a petition with over 330 signatures to the town council. The council chose to repeal the month-old law rather than put it to a vote.

Never mind that thousands of trees in the area are already dead from the mountain pine beetle epidemic (which HCN covered a few weeks ago), which prompted the council to pass the ordinance in the first place.

Or that fire officials who were counting on the law to help in defending homes must now rely on voluntary vegetation clearing from residents.

While summer temperatures -- and fire danger -- peak, Breckenridge's reversal on fire safety isn't setting a good example:

Opponents have criticized the strategy as pointless unless other communities in the area participate. Many state residents had followed closely the developments in Breckenridge, one of the few communities--if not the only--in Colorado to take such an aggressive approach.   LA Times


jedediah Redman
jedediah Redman
Jul 31, 2009 10:47 AM
Why pay for precautions yourself when history clearly demonstrates that USFS will bust their butts to protect your property?
re: Breckenridge
Aug 04, 2009 07:51 PM
Mr. Redman,
In case your question was offered sincerely, I will respond by saying that the reason is because, in addition to busting their butts, wildland firefighters (state, federal, and volunteer) too often also give their lives protecting private property.

The threat of fire to lives and property in and around wildlands is a certainty. There is plenty of room for debate about the opportunity costs of public or community efforts to fight fires once they are burning. However, we should need no debate as to whether any property owner is owed the sacrifices offered by individual firefighters protecting private property.
Breckenridge repeal of defensible space requirement
Aug 05, 2009 01:11 PM
From the letters to the editor today in the Summit Daily News:
"I'm delighted that the Town of Breckenridge has listed to its residents and most particularly the voters who signed the petitions to save our beautiful town... There's a reason we choose to live in Breckenridge or have second homes here and much of it has to do with the natural beauty of this mountain town. To think of it without trees saddened me so much. Yes. it might help the firefighters in the event of a wildfire to not have trees providing fuel, but that's what firefighters are paid to do: fight fires." This is is the mentality of the petition signers - talk about denial, even in the face of hillsides full of dead trees! Would it sadden her if someone died trying to save her house?