Boulder County residents can apply for $500 rebate for wildfire mitigation

A new program allows eligible residents to receive a $500 rebate for completing one or more of four wildfire mitigation tactics.
Boulder County residents can apply for $500 rebate for completing certain wildfire mitigation
Posted at 10:36 PM, Jun 26, 2024

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — A new program allows eligible Boulder County residents to apply for a rebate of up to $500 for completing certain wildfire mitigation techniques.

The program is open to homeowners and renters.

Jennifer Bright moved to unincorporated Boulder County in 2015. The home was everything she ever wanted — it's got views of the mountains but is close enough for her to get to Boulder quickly.

“My big dream house," Bright said while walking around the home. “I just found this house and I loved it. And I bought it right away.”

View from Jennifer Bright's home
The view from Jennifer Bright's home in unincorporated Boulder County.

Bright said with her dream home has come the realities of living in the foothills.

“In 2019 when I saw that smoke coming, and it was coming and we were evacuated, I was like, 'What would I do?'" said Bright, referring to a wildfire.

Acquiring fire insurance was also a challenge for Bright, who works as a realtor.

“I'd been with the same insurance company forever, like, 15 years, and they pretty much are a major provider. And, you know, they grandfather you in, but they increased my rates after the Marshall Fire, and so I was shopping around," said Bright. “I couldn't find people to insure me. And I had to get inspections and they made me do mitigation to the house in order to be insured... I did finally find an insurer. But yeah, it's something to consider when moving up here, although I think it's going to get better and better because we're all going to work together to make it safer.”

That work has come in many forms of wildfire mitigation at Bright's home. The surrounding area around her home has been cleared, with some trees cut down. She's also one of the residents who will receive a rebate from Boulder County since the perimeter of her home with is lined with small rocks.

“It's such a blessing and a help. Because, you know, everything is more expensive these days," said Bright.

Bright said the rock work will be covered by the $500 rebate since it cost $498.

In order to receive the rebate, residents must complete one or more of four different kinds of wildfire mitigation:

Vegetation management
Rocks surround Jennifer Bright's home acting as vegetation management, since it would not spark if an ember were to land close to her home.

Flatiron Fire Defense, a Boulder company that helps with wildfire mitigation, completed the rock work around Bright's home.

“Zero to five feet [around a home], you want nothing combustible in that zone, whether it's pine needles, grass, random timbers, a wooden chair even. You want nothing in that zone because if an ember lands in that zone, it can start a fire right at the base of your house," said Jacob Austin, CEO of Flatiron Fire Defense. “By going through, we till the soil, take out all the vegetation, then we lay landscape fabric to keep the plants from coming back. And then with the rocks on top, if an ember lands there, it's just going to fizzle out.”

Austin said another tactic is trying to prevent an ember from entering a home.

“Not many people know this, but 90% of homes that burn down from wildfires are actually ignited by the small embers traveling downwind. It's not actually the flames most of the time," said Austin. “You can't stop wildfire, you can't reverse climate change, but we found a lot of ways to reduce ember ignition with vegetation management, home hardening. And then we're also doing something called the ember defense system. It's an exterior network of sprinklers, and it completely saturates the exterior of a house in a mixture of water and Class A firefighting foam.”

The company frequently discusses how the mitigation tactics can be seen as a trade-off of sorts for homeowners.

"People want the aesthetic and the scenery. That's why they move to the mountains is for the trees and the plants. But then you have people coming in saying, 'Hey, you actually have to take that tree out if you want to reduce your risk or qualify for insurance.' So you find people getting stuck in this like, 'Oh, I love that tree, but I don't want to take it out,'” said Austin. “It's a trade-off, but we explain to them we're not here to take out the forest. We're here to make it healthier and reduce your risk.”

Austin also reminded residents of Income 65, which means wildfire risk mitigation services are tax deductible in Colorado.

“A lot of people don't know that the State of Colorado actually makes wildfire risk mitigation services 50% tax deductible, up to $2,500. So if you spend $5,000 on the services, you can basically take $2,500 off your taxes," Austin explained.

Jennifer Bright's dog
Jennifer Bright's dog sits near the pile of rocks that will be used for wildfire mitigation around the home.

The $500 rebates offered in Boulder County are funded by $2.5 million, which could serve an estimated 5,000 residents, according to Jeffrey Stanley, special projects coordinator with Wildfire Partners of Boulder County. Stanley hopes the program is a success and continues next year.

“In Colorado, it is unique. We're hoping that if we're successful and we can show some success with this that more people will want to start a program, implement a program either at the state level, at their own county level, or at a city level," said Stanley.

Wildfire Partners of Boulder County is celebrating a decade of serving the region. The program works to help with community planning and permitting while assisting homeowners in understanding the risks wildfires pose in the area.

“The frequency [of fires] has increased, you know. And most wildfires are caused by humans, unfortunately," said Stanley. “The density of our population grew in Boulder, and the fact that wildfires are on the rise, and the changing climate that we're experiencing, we just need to understand wildfires in a deeper way and understand how that impacts living with wildfire, and what we can do to make our homes and property and communities as safe as possible," said Stanley.

Applications for the rebate must be received by October 31, and the work needs to be completed by mid-December. The work must take place after June 18, since that was when the rebate program was launched.

Residents can apply through the Wildfire Partners website.

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