BLACK FOREST, Colo. (CBS4) – You’ve heard the saying “it takes a village.” Well, its true, especially for one neighborhood in the Black Forest.
After a house fire in the spring of 2014 threatened to spread, it brought back terrible memories of Colorado’s most destructive wildfire, which raged through the Black Forest in June 2013.
The scare caused one group of neighbors to realize their vulnerability.
“We would be trapped or would have to get out on foot and not be able to take very much with us,” said resident Sue Leggiero.
“We have to be able to get our crews in and out safely, and if there’s a heavy fuel load on both sides of the road, there’s a very good chance our crews could be trapped,” said Scott MacDonald, Lieutenant with the Black Forest Fire Department.
After learning there was a chance that fire trucks may not be able to make it down her dead-end road because it was overgrown with trees, Leggiero gathered her neighbors and took action.
They participated in a national program called Firewise. It teaches homeowners how to decrease risk to their entire community should a wildfire occur.
The neighbors created flyers and went door to door, getting everyone on the block to participate. They knew some people may not be able to afford the work or be physically able to help, but that didn’t stop them.
Once the footwork was complete, the next step was to learn how to mitigate, which involved learning what makes a healthy forest.
“Typically, you’d expect about 40 to 60 great big trees per acre here, but we’ve probably got several thousand on this acre, most of them small and scrawny,” said Dave Root, Assistant District Forester with Colorado State University, based in Woodland Park.
A typical ponderosa forest, like those found in the Black Forest, should burn naturally about every 25 to 30 years.
But over the past several decades, as more people moved into wildfire prone areas, instead of letting fires burn naturally, flames were suppressed. This allowed many forests to become dense and overgrown.
Root says with a little hard work and some simple tools, like an axe and chainsaw, we can maintain our forests by doing the work a naturally occurring fire would have done.
Once the work to clean up the forest surrounding the road and homes on Leggiero’s street is complete, and this neighborhood is deemed a Firewise Community, they’ll receive a street sign to place at their neighborhood’s entry, letting everyone know how hard they’ve worked to make their community a safer place.
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