As wildfires increase in frequency and severity in Colorado, Jefferson County formed the Jeffco Wildfire Safe Team (JWS) with this primary focus: protect people and structures, reduce fuels, and recycle biomass across the county. With the help of $2.8 million allocated from the county’s $113 million 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) economic stimulus bill award, these plans are becoming a reality as one of the first approved and funded ARPA projects Jefferson County is undertaking.
A collaboration of both internal and external teams has put together a funding strategy (for the JWS) that leverages a combination of local, state, and federal resources for a total potential package of $7.5 million. In a series of discussions with Jefferson County Commissioners, approval was granted for $2.8 million in ARPA funds for protection of people and structures from wildfire, reduction of fuels, and biomass recycling. Jeffco Open Space (JCOS) was also given permission to apply (along with Elk Creek Fire Protection District) to the Colorado Division of Natural Resources for a $1 million Landscape Scale Fuels Reduction Program grant from the Colorado Strategic Wildfire Action Program (COSWAP). If the COSWAP grant is awarded, it will fund a county-wide approach including an inventory and risk assessment, forest fuels reduction on JCOS and private lands, roadside fuels reduction, and implementing defensible space around structures.
“These programs and funding sources will allow the county and our partners to reduce fuels on a significant amount of public and private lands,” said Tom Hoby, Jefferson County Director of Parks & Conservation. “Within the next five years, these strategic actions will help protect more people and property, while using our collective resources more efficiently,” Hoby added.
One part of the approved $2.8 million ARPA funds will be to update the Jefferson County Comprehensive Plan, the Transportation Plan, the Community Wildfire Protection Plan, planning and zoning regulations and building codes. Another part of this funding will be used to create two year-round locations to recycle biomass for the Sustainable Lands and Safer Homes program---better known as SLASH to Jeffco residents and businesses. This rotating summer program previously offered residents 44 days to drop off SLASH at 20 locations. In 2022, the county is partnering with the Jefferson Conservation District (JCD) to double the number of drop off days to 88 at seven locations. This partnership will have JCD staff hosting collection days while county staff processes and hauls the materials. By offering two permanent locations in the future, this program can be further expanded to over 200 drop off days per year.
“Our goal is to use the collective resources and talent throughout the county to reduce wildfire risks, and to keep people safe and minimize structure loss when wildfires do occur,” Hoby added. See the American Rescue Plan Act web page for more information about the Jefferson County ARPA program.See the Slash Collection web page for more information about the county’s SLASH program.Note: Funding sources include ARPA, COSWAP, Front Range Waste Diversion grant program. JSW is coordinating with the Jefferson Conservation District, Rooney Road Recycling Center Authority, several mountain area fire districts, the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office of Emergency Management, Jeffco Development & Transportation, Strategy, Innovation & Finance, and the Jeffco Parks & Conservation teams.