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2020 was a historic year of wildland fires in our state. According to an article in 5280 Magazine, over 625,000 acres burned and three of the largest fires ever occurred last year (Carodine 2020). Total firefighting costs exceeded $266 million (gacc.nifc.gov). One of the blazes, the East Troublesome Creek (ETC) fire, scorched over 150,000 acres in only 1 day. That fire started and spread through forests comprised mostly of standing dead lodgepole pine trees from the bark beetle epidemic from earlier this century.
From a real estate perspective, 366 homes and 214 additional structures were damaged or a total loss in the ETC fire (cpr.org). According to a Larimer County Assessors Report, 243 buildings (of which 184 were homes) were damaged or lost in the Cameron Peak fire, affecting 469 privately owned properties (larimer.org). Total market value losses are approximately $6.4 million. The combined homeowner and auto insurance claims filed for both fires exceed $614 million, making 2020 the most expensive wildfire year ever recorded (rmiia.org).
Wildfires across the western United States are becoming larger and more destructive and unfortunately, it may be the norm moving into the future (denverpost.com). Given the destructive nature of these large fires, it may seem that mountain and rural landowners cannot do anything to protect their investments. However, there are many steps that can be taken to improve safety while maintaining property values. These include doing mitigation work around homes and outbuildings to enrolling in a federal or state program that can help offset the cost of bringing in a contractor to do work on a property. There are a myriad of websites and articles on the internet available to landowners to help guide the decision-making process. Included here are a curated selection that may be valuable to readers of this article (Hayden Outdoors Real Estate does not endorse any specific organization or program, these are for information purposes only)
In March 2021, Dr. Christopher Licata, a Forest Ecologist who recently joined the Hayden Outdoors team, did a driving tour of the area impacted by these two wildfires. His wife, Segrid, documented the damage to the forest and several of her photos are included here. Visit Dr. Licata’s Profile page to contact him for more info on this topic.