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  • National Firewise Program

    By ROBERT WELLER
    Associated Press Writer
    PERRY PARK RANCH, Colo. (AP) - Don Korinek knew that devastating
    wildfires made it dangerous to live among stands of ponderosa pine,
    Douglas fir and Gambel oak.
    "I didn't care. I love this place," Korinek recalled three
    years after buying his retirement home adjacent to the Pike
    National Forest.
    So Korinek and his neighbors acted to protect their homes from
    fire without destroying the natural beauty, including spectacular
    red rock formations, that drew them here. Last year they had a near
    escape when wildfire burned to within three miles.
    Firefighters said most of the homes could have been saved
    because of the homeowners' efforts, which also put Perry Park Ranch
    among only 12 communities out of 22,000 in wildfire zones to be
    recognized as "firewise" by the National Fire Protection
    Association.
    Instead of clearcutting thick stands of trees, the 580
    homeowners have reduced brush around their houses, trimmed trees
    and encouraged neighbors to install fire-resistant roofs.
    "What these communities are doing blows away a lot of the myths
    that this firewise stuff is ugly and that it will drive wildlife
    away," said Jim Smalley, manager of the fire protection
    association's firewise program.
    Homeowners have been so slow to make their homes defensible that
    State Farm, the nation's No. 1 insurer of homes, has begun
    inspecting houses in high-risk fire zones to make sure minimum
    standards are met. Recalcitrant homeowners could lose their
    insurance.
    Congress is trying to speed up environmental reviews so that the
    Forest Service can clear areas with high concentrations of old and
    dying brush and timber.
    Before the Forest Service began suppressing wildfires, periodic
    fires thinned forests, removing old and diseased trees. That
    reduced the threat of major fires.
    A century of aggressive fire prevention has left forests thick
    with trees and brush, fueling devastating wildfires across the
    West.
    Congress is trying to speed up environmental reviews so that the
    Forest Service can clear areas with high concentrations of old and
    dying brush and timber. About 22,000 communities nationwide are
    considered to be in a wildfire danger zone, Rep. Scott McInnis,
    R-Colo., has said.
    Communities that help themselves will get priority when the
    Forest Service chooses where to devote its efforts, said Terry
    McCann of the U.S. Forest Service.
    The fire-protection program in Perry Park Ranch started three
    years ago with modest goals.
    Korinek and others on a voluntary committee set up by the
    subdivision's government began with a survey that showed homeowners
    loved the trees and the wildlife.
    Residents knew there was extreme fire danger. Once they were
    convinced trees and wildlife habitat could be preserved, they
    enthusiastically supported the program.
    The committee also found a way to get the money needed to pay to
    remove branches and brush. They started with a $25,000 bond issue
    that led to a grant of $45,000 the first year, which required a
    matching amount.
    Homeowners contributed labor - "sweat equity" - at a rate of
    $10.98 an hour to match it, said Rich Homann, supervisor of the
    Colorado state forester's fire division.
    In the third year, the program got $165,000, and volunteers
    again donated their labor to match it.
    Keith Worley, a forestry consultant who lives in the community,
    teaches residents the basics of making home sites defensible. While
    much progress has been made, Korinek and Worley said they are years
    away from making the homes as safe as possible.
    Homann says he has seen interest in home protection rise and
    fall, depending on the severity of the wildfire season. "I am
    hoping through sharing successes like Perry Park that the awareness
    level can be kept up and we can accelerate the treatment of
    hazardous fuels."
    ---
    On the Net:
    National Firewise Program
    http://www.firewise.org/usa/perrypark.htm

    (Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
    Proudly serving as the IACOJ Minister of Information & Propoganda!
    Be Safe! Lookouts-Awareness-Communications-Escape Routes-Safety Zones

    *Gathering Crust Since 1968*
    On the web at www.section2wildfire.com

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