Waldo Canyon Fire – June 2012

Creating and maintaining landscapes that are as resistant as possible to wildfire damage has been a somewhat minor topic in the gardening community in the Pikes Peak area…until this summer when the worst-case scenario happened. Many homes were lost to the Waldo Canyon fire in June, and many more were in danger of damage. Suddenly, fire mitigation is back on the radar again for homeowners in our area, especially those living in the foothills and heavily wooded areas.

Some neighborhoods have been aggressive in their fire mitigation efforts, knowing they were in areas with high fire danger. In fact, the effort in the Cedar Heights area has been credited with possibly saving the homes there. For other neighborhoods, the Waldo Canyon fire has been a very loud wake-up call.

Now is an excellent time to get current on the fire-resistant landscaping information that is available to us. As usual, the people at Colorado State University Extension have some excellent free publications that can either be requested from their local office or read online here:
Fact Sheet 6.302 – Creating Wildfire-Defensible Zones – This excellent publication provides detailed information on creating zones around your property and maintaining them.
Fact Sheet 6.303 – Fire-Resistant Landscaping – A good introductory fact sheet on creating landscape defensible space with information on managing specific types of plants in areas vulnerable to wildfires.
Fact Sheet 6.305 – FireWise Plant Materials – Advice on choosing specific plants for your defensible zones in your landscape. (Did you know certain plants are drier and more flammable at different times of the year?)
Fact Sheet 6.304 – Forest Home Fire Safety – Information specifically for those living in more rural areas.
Fact Sheet 3.11 – Gambel Oak Management – We have many areas with big populations of this shrub/tree. It’s a tough job, but proper management of thickets of gambel oak is crucial in firewise landscaping.
Fact Sheet 6.308 – Soil Erosion Control after Wildfire – We are of course dealing with this on a large scale after the Waldo Canyon fire, but there are steps homeowners can take on their own properties if they were affected by the fire. Wildfires often leave hydrophobic soils behind them which resist absorbing water – learn more about this phenomenon in this fact sheet.

Contributed by Carey Harrington, Certified Colorado Gardener and Colorado Native Plant Master
Photo provided by Keystoneridin through Wikimedia Commons, accessed Aug 3, 2012