Wildfire Mitigation and Preparedness

Wildfire is our community's most serious hazard risk. But there are proven strategies to reduce our exposure to the threat of wildfire, and Summit County is here to help residents and property owners through a variety of programs and services. It's important to keep in mind that wildfire preparedness and mitigation are team efforts: Taking action protects our own safety, as well as that of our family members and neighbors.

The mountain pine beetle epidemic caused extensive damage to more than 140,000 acres of forest in Summit County. And we have seen marked increases in our visitation and resident population numbers, with corresponding increases in development and human activity in forested areas. Climate change is making our fire seasons longer, hotter and drier. Together, these factors increase the potential for large, high-intensity wildfires that threaten homes, public safety, infrastructure, water supplies and natural resources. Below is a list of key strategies to mitigate these risks.

Create Defensible Space Around Your Home

Defensible space is an area around a home where trees and other flammable vegetation are cleared or reduced to slow the spread of wildfire toward the building. Defensible space creates a safe zone for firefighters to carry out their work, and it reduces the chance that a structure fire will move to the surrounding forest. Every home in Summit County should have defensible space.

Learn more about creating defensible space.

Diagram of defensible space zones.

Wildfire Mitigation Grant Programs

Summit County's Hazardous Fuels Reduction (HFR) Grant Program offers matching grants to homeowner groups working to create defensible space across multiple properties. Through the Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP) Grant Program, the County offers matching grants for other wildfire projects, such as development of emergency water supplies and improvements to evacuation routes. The CWPP Grant Program includes four categories of projects: Life Safety, Critical Infrastructure, Design/Pre-Engineering and Education.

Learn more about Summit County's wildfire mitigation grant programs, including how to apply.

Man cutting trees for defensible space

Defensible Space Assessments

Free home-safety inspections are available to residents and property owners through our local fire districts. These voluntary onsite walk-throughs cover many aspects of wildfire preparedness and mitigation for the entire household. Fire district staff offer recommendations and discuss best practices for safety improvements.

To schedule a free assessment of your property, call Summit Fire & EMS (970-262-5100) or Red White & Blue Fire (970-453-2474).

Summit County Chipping Program

You can create defensible space with help from the Summit County Chipping Program. If you clear flammable vegetation from around your home and stack it in a slash pile, we'll chip it and haul it away for free. Accepted materials include trees, logs and branches up to 12 inches in diameter (no cottonwoods or willows).

Learn more about the Summit County Chipping Program, including materials and participation guidelines.

Chipping Truck and Crew

Summit County Alert

Local emergency response agencies use Summit County Alert to send emergency notifications by phone, email and text to keep community members informed of events such as wildfires, neighborhood evacuations and floods. SC Alert is also used to communicate non-life-safety information, such as planned road closures, school cancellations, community meetings and utility service interruptions. We strongly encourage all Summit County residents and property owners to subscribe to SC Alert.

Learn more about Summit County Alert, including how to subscribe and update your account settings.

Register for Summit County Alert

Wildfire Prevention

More than 80 percent of wildfires are caused by humans, so each of us plays a role in preventing a wildfire. It's important to understand wildfire prevention strategies related to camping, campfires, driving, outdoor equipment use, smoking, shooting and more. It's also important to be aware of and abide by current fire restrictions.

Learn more about wildfire prevention.

Smokey Bear says, "You can help." One less spark, one less wildfire.

Success in Wildfire Mitigation

Summit County is recognized across the West as a leader in community wildfire protection. In 2008, local voters approved a mill levy that funds a variety of wildfire mitigation programs, including the Summit County Chipping Program, Hazardous Fuels Reduction Grant Program and Community Wildfire Protection Grant Program. Collaborative partnerships among multiple agencies have created critical fuel breaks that protect our homes, businesses and infrastructure. In November 2018, voters approved a measure that will fund additional fuel breaks, emergency water supplies and wildfire prevention patrols.

Through the Chipping Program, thousands of Summit County residents and property owners have taken concrete steps to protect their homes from wildfire:

  • 11,388 participating households
  • 37,433 slash piles chipped
  • 25,720 cubic yards of woody material chipped and collected.