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Fire-mitigation grant for vegetation removal in Midland area lasts through April

The Colorado Springs areas in red, including most of the Westside, are designated by the City Fire Department as at "extreme risk" to fire.
Courtesy of Colorado Springs Fire Department
Are you concerned that bushes or trees on your property are so close to your home they could endanger it in a fire?
       If you live in the Midland area of the Westside, funds are available - at least for a few more months - to pay for their removal.
       According to Amy Sylvester, wildfire mitigation program coordinator for the Colorado Springs Fire Department, the benefit comes courtesy of an El Pomar Foundation grant that will likely run out by the end of April.
       The Midland neighborhood, named after the railroad that once headquartered itself at present-day Highway 24 and 21st Street (and around which many rail employees lived), covers the area west of that intersection to the city limits and south to about Busch Avenue. Some people also know this as the “Bott Park” area.
       The Midland is identified as one of 110 neighborhoods in the western parts of the city known as the “wildland urban interface” and described as being at “extreme risk” to fire. As shown by a graphic on this page, this western WUI runs mostly north-south between the Air Force Academy and Fort Carson.
       The grant program is tied in with ongoing fire-mitigation policies. As part of that, anyone living in the WUI can contact the City Fire Marshal's Office and set up a free appointment. A fire technician will then visit the address and assess what kinds of vegetation removal would improve fire safety. No action is required, but if property owners decide to follow through on removal recommendations, they normally have to pay that cost themselves.
       The El Pomar grant, providing free vegetation removal, was established after the Waldo Canyon Fire, out of concern for the WUI neighborhoods in the southwest parts of the city (south of Highway 24 and also including the Broadmoor area). These well-populated areas were untouched by the Waldo fire, but the EL Pomar board - which disperses interest
A graphic provides an example of recommendations to enhance fire mitigation on a residential property.
Courtesy of Colorado Springs Fire Department
income from the fortune left by early 20th century city leaders Spencer and Julie Penrose - hoped the grant would help lessen the onslaught of any future blaze, Sylvester pointed out.
       The total El Pomar grant was $600,000. The money was dispersed over three years ($200,000 each time) to three basic areas. The Midland area was the last and northernmost of the three, she said. A public meeting about it was held last September at the Gold Hill police station.
       Sylvester emphasized that Fire Department employees who visit homes to make assessments have no legal power to force people into vegetation or even building changes. “The only time we can do any kind of enforcement is if someone is building a new home in an areas that's at risk for wildfire,” she said. “We do not come in with a notepad and red pen and start issuing citations.”
       Depending on the size of the property, the typical amount of time required for an assessment is about 20 minutes, she said.
       Another city fire-mitigation benefit - one that's budget-dependent and offered on a rotating basis to some but not all WUI neighborhoods each year - is free brush chipping. Information about that program for 2016 will be announced soon, Sylvester said.
       For more information, Sylvester can be reached at 385-7342.

Westside Pioneer article
(Posted 12/15/15; Community: Public Safety)

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