News Flash

Summit County Government

Posted on: January 24, 2018

Summit County Adopts New Wildfire Regulations

Diagram of defensible space zones.

Amendments to the Land Use and Development Code and Community Wildfire Protection Plan bolster local wildfire protection and prevention efforts

Jim Curnutte, Summit County Community Development Director: 970-668-4203
Don Reimer, Summit County Planning Director: 970-668-4207
Dan Schroder, Summit County CSU Extension Director: 970-668-4140

SUMMIT COUNTY – The Summit Board of County Commissioners has adopted new land-use regulations to mitigate community wildfire risk. New amendments to the Summit County Land Use and Development Code address wildfire hazard reduction and promote proven wildfire protection strategies. The board also approved the most comprehensive update to the Summit County Community Wildfire Protection Plan in 10 years.

Both sets of adopted revisions are the products of a multi-year effort to facilitate smart development while supporting wildfire hazard-reduction planning and overall community resilience to wildfire. The changes took effect Jan. 9.

“The Peak Two Fire was a sobering reminder of how real the threat of wildfire is in Summit County,” Commissioner Dan Gibbs said. “We’re very fortunate that the fire didn’t make its way into our neighborhoods, but we have to be proactive in taking concrete steps to reduce our exposure to those types of risks.”

Wildfire-related amendments to the Land Use and Development Code include new requirements for assessing wildfire hazards and potential mitigation measures when updating master plans, and as part of any new rezoning, planned unit development or subdivision application. New landscaping regulations promote a more wildfire-resilient community through defensible space requirements. The changes also address the placement of combustible materials, such as wood fencing and firewood piles, which can indirectly lead to home loss from wildfire.

“We wanted to ensure that the Countywide Comprehensive Plan, the Basin Master Plans, the Land Use and Development Code and the Community Wildfire Protection Plan all speak the same language and are aligned with one another to support our wildfire mitigation efforts,” Summit County Senior Planner Lindsay Hirsh said. “We arrived at these changes through a rigorous review and analysis by numerous wildfire experts, community stakeholders and County representatives.”

The Summit County Community Wildfire Protection Plan is a guiding document that outlines goals and objectives in support of a wildfire-resilient community. The update includes a significant set of map revisions to reflect vegetation changes across the Summit County landscape since the mountain pine beetle epidemic concluded and forest managers began fuel reduction work to support a healthy future forest.

Members of the Summit County Wildfire Council use the CWPP to identify wildfire hazard issues and actively address them. Since 2006, more than 150 wildfire hazard-reduction projects have been completed through partnerships among Summit County, the U.S. Forest Service, local towns, residents and landowners. Projects have resulted in the creation of defensible space around homes and throughout communities, as well as new infrastructure, such as cistern installations to support wildfire response.

In 2014, Headwaters Economics approached Summit County officials with a proposal to conduct a wildfire-related review of Summit County’s guiding documents. The resulting “Recommendations for Policies and Regulations to Reduce Community Wildfire Risk” report was prepared by representatives from a consulting group comprised of representatives from Headwaters Economics, Wildfire Planning International and Clarion. The LOR Foundation provided funding for the project.

“The team provided many recommendations to help Summit County bolster its wildfire hazard reduction efforts,” Summit County CSU Extension Director Dan Schroder said. “The amended code and updated CWPP support the ultimate goal of stronger community protection from wildfire.”


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