Summit County Council Member Urges Homeowners To Prepare For Wildfire

Jan 11, 2019

Last Summer's Tollgate Fire threatened the Tollgate neighborhood.

Summit County Council Member Glenn Wright doesn’t want the county to repeat the tragedy of Paradise, California, which was destroyed in last fall’s wildfires.

Given that, one of his major concerns this year is getting homeowners to create defensible space in the mountain vegetation around their homes.

Wright mentioned the problem during this week’s council meeting.

While Wildland Urban Interface rules apply to new construction, they aren’t enforced on existing homes and subdivisions.

“We have some rules that effect new construction. To get a CO for a new house you have to have defensible space and proper construction of the house. Which would include combustible roofing and various things like that. We don’t have the ability right now, in my understanding, to go back and affect communities that are already in place. Its very difficult. And certainly, as a homeowner you wouldn’t want us taking a bulldozer through your property to create defensible space. We have to work with homeowners’ associations and individual homeowners to try and convince them that this is the right thing to do.”

Among the neighborhoods he’s looked at, Wright said the Colony has done a good job. He said he’s most concerned about Summit Park, an older area that doesn’t have strong covenants and restrictions.

He said the county will have to confer with fire officials on ways to encourage residents to created defensible space—and possibly find ways to help with the expense.

“One thing we might think about doing is a much lower level procedure that we used at The Canyons. Where The Canyons created a voluntary assessment district. So that we could get some improvements done through taxes on a voluntary basis. There might be some other options we may pursue, but I think its very important as I said in my comments. I don’t want Paradise, California to come to Summit County.”

On a related issue, the council directed their HR department to create a policy that allows some of their staffers to qualify as entry-level wildland fire fighters.

Wright said they’re trying to lend some help to North Summit and South Summit for the early phases of wild fires.

The program would use, at most, ten county employees. Their supervisors would have to give permission and the staffers would have to have proper emergency and physical training.

“If they passed the proper physical fitness test and get the proper training. Physical fitness test is pretty rigorous. You carry a 45-pound pack for three miles and you have to get it done in 45 minutes.”

Wright explained they would be compensated for the training if it occurred during their normal work hours.