Wildfire Lessons from Waldo Canyon
Last summer marked an especially destructive wildfire season in Colorado with insurance claims exceeding $450 million. One fire in particular – the Waldo Canyon blaze that raged through the Colorado Springs area in June and July – burned more than 18,000 acres, destroyed almost 350 homes and caused the evacuation of more than 32,000 residents. Reportedly, it was the most expensive fire in state history, causing more than $350 million worth of insurance claims.
Obviously, a fire of this magnitude can teach some valuable lessons for future mitigation efforts and earlier this week the Fire Adapted Communities Coalition (FAC), a national partnership dedicated to promoting best practices to reduce wildfire-related damage, released “Lessons from Waldo Canyon,” an investigative report that examined what happened. The report determined that the fire could have been much worse if it wasn’t for the mitigation efforts of the Colorado Springs Fire Marshal. In one neighborhood alone, mitigation efforts saved millions:
According to estimates provided by the Colorado Springs Mitigation Section and FEMA, the cost benefit ratio for the mitigation efforts for the Cedar Heights neighborhood was 1/257; $300,000 was spent on mitigation work and $77,248,301 in losses were avoided. Combined cost benefit ratio was 1/ 517 for the three neighborhoods with the highest impacts.
The report presented a variety of findings that could help other communities mitigate their own wildfire risk and outlined the importance of proper building construction and maintenance, reduction of fuels for fire, and partnerships with other organizations to spread the preparedness message.
The FAC also developed a companion video entitled, “Creating Fire Adpated Communities: A Case Study from Colorado Springs and the Waldo Canyon Fire” that includes dramatic footage of the fire and interviews with emergency personnel and residents to further drive home these mitigation lessons and hopefully prevent future disasters.