BOULDER COUNTY – We have watched the scenes from Colorado Springs (Waldo Canyon Fire in June of 2012) and California where wildfires reached into our towns and cities destroying hundreds of homes in a matter of hours. Most Front Range inhabitants would never have thought that it would happen so close to home. Our idea that wildfires are confined to forested areas and during summer has been challenged and is no longer the norm. We need to be prepared and able to recover should the unthinkable happen. Our thoughts and prayers are with those who have lost their homes in the Marshall Fire and all the precious memories that are part of those homes. Boulder County and Colorado State University Extension Boulder County are available to help affected homeowners with the recovery process. A Resource Center is located at 1755 S. Public Road in Lafayette.
For those who can’t return home, contact your insurance agent to find out what resources are available to you in the way of a temporary housing allowance, rental car and other resources, plus your agent can go over your policy and let you know if you have items like debris removal in your policy for when you start thinking about rebuilding. Stay advised of any community meetings and resources from the county by checking this website. Wildfire Resources & Rebuilding – Boulder County
For those that can return home, you will likely have at least some smoke damage, plus you need to deal with food that has been exposed to heat, smoke and ash and has not been properly refrigerated, furniture, carpeting and building materials that smell of smoke. Your community may provide dumpsters for you to use. The first best step is to contact your insurance agent and find out what resources are available to you and how you should document the work that you do. Taking photos prior to starting work and saving any receipts are the best steps post contacting your agent. Your insurance company may have restoration companies they normally recommend for fire damage and restoration work. Colorado State University Extension and Larimer County Extension have resources for dealing with post fire home and food safety issues you encounter.
As far as land recovery, grassland fire areas recover more quickly than forested areas. We were fortunate with the fire’s timing as plants were dormant when it occurred. Most landowners do not need to do any or possibly minimal reseeding post fire. The fire releases nutrients that can be readily used by grasses and other forbs. You may find your grass is greener this spring due to this nutrient release. Most shrubs will resprout in the spring from the roots. They might need pruning to shape them over the next few years. Tree recovery depends on the tree species and how extensive the damage is. It is best to consult with a certified arborist (see the International Society of Arboriculture’s website Welcome (isa-arbor.com) for arborist recommendations) to determine if a tree is salvageable or must be removed and replaced. Additional land recovery resources can be found on the Boulder County Extension website at Post-Fire-Rehab-FAQ-Calwood-11.24.2020.pdf (colostate.edu)
Recovery is a process so make sure that you are taking time for yourself and your family and take breaks periodically to do something fun for your mental health. While it is in our nature to want everything back to normal as soon as possible, it will take time. Please do not hesitate to reach out to Boulder County Departments and resources and CSU Extension Boulder County to assist you in the recovery process. You are not alone in the process.
By Deryn Davidson, Horticulture Agent, Colorado State University Extension Boulder County
and Sharon Bokan, Volunteer, Colorado State University Extension Boulder County