'Now is the time to prepare': Boulder County to hire 12 new positions for wildfire mitigation

marshall fire louisville
Posted at 8:45 PM, Feb 28, 2023

BOULDER, Colo. — Boulder County is expanding its wildfire mitigation team, hiring 12 new people to help the community be ready in the face of another catastrophic fire.

The positions, which will range from foresters and community engagement professionals to accountants, will be funded in part by a sales and use tax approved by county voters in November.

Jim Webster, wildfire partners program coordinator for Boulder County, says windy days like we’ve been seeing now serve as a powerful reminder for the need to prepare — both at an individual level and community wide. Many Marshall Fire survivors working through trauma say wind has become a strong trigger, instantly taking them back to the day of the disaster when gusts reached 100 miles per hour.

Webster says he personally resonates with this anxiety, but if his 13 years of work in wildfire mitigation have taught him anything, it is that anxiety is best channeled into action.

“People can work on their individual home, hardening their structures and preparing for wildfire,” Webster said. “We often think about the flaming front of a fire, but most homes are destroyed by embers that can travel a mile in front of a fire. So, those embers landing on things like the cushions on your deck furniture, or pine needles, or other junk that you have stored up against your house. Those are the things that are often the biggest vulnerabilities and we have the ability to reduce that risk.”

Each home will have unique threats to address, Webster says, and that’s where Boulder County is now channeling its action. The 12 new team members, led by Webster, will coach homeowners and community members on their wildfire preparedness, as well manage a grant program for strategic forest and grassland management projects.

“If your neighbor’s home ignites, that puts your home at great risk. So, when you perform mitigation, you’re not just helping yourself, you’re helping your neighbors,” Webster explained. “We really need to do more at a larger scale. And so, these positions will enable us to reach out to the community, develop new programs, but also to improve existing programs.”

The recruitment and hiring process for the new positions will last through the spring. The sales and use tax went into effect January 1.

“We will have future fires in Boulder County,” Webster said. “So now is the time to prepare.”

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