Mountain Air Ranch
Minutes of the Board of Directors Wildfire Planning Meeting
Call to Order:
The meeting was held in person on August 16, 2023 and called to order at 4:06 pm, with the following Board members present: Jack Williams, Janet St John, Jim Buck, Jim Williams, and Uriah Onstott; and Chris M., MAR operations manager. Dennis B was unable to attend. Guests included: Bob L, Caleb C, Trey C,
Statement of Purpose for Planning Meeting:
Carla stated that there have been so many emails and lengthy meeting discussions about elements of fire mitigation, but we don’t yet have sufficient direction. She stressed that it was important to get together to focus on the. Wildfire Planning and Mitigation topic so that we clarify information, priorities and tasks with regard to wildfire mitigation.
Recap Status of Current Wildfire Planning activities
Grant Contract – Carla
- As Carla reviewed obvious available grants, she noticed that MAR is not eligible for most grants (not a 501(c)(3), not selling wood, etc.). One grant for which MAR may have been eligible was past the due date for submission.
- Probably still worth our while to hire Jennifer, but we are not eligible for the major grants. Many grants focus on HOAs, but MAR is a property owner and falls in that gray area. Hopefully, she will find some that MAR would still be eligible for.
- Carla authorized payment and told Chris to go ahead and work with Jennifer using the preferred payment method
Trail Clean Up Crew – Bob L
Last year, the trail crew cleared 1,000 ft x 40 ft wide on east ridge; this year the crew will complete 600 ft x 40 ft wide on west ridge. Cutting scrub oak; firebreak is on the downhill side of the crest of each ridge; crew is focusing on cutting scrub oak; cutting branches 6 ft and lower to prevent fire from getting into the canopy.
- Carla mentioned the branch trimming height requirement when doing wildfire assessments for insurance carriers is 10 ft from ground level for cutting branches. Chris confirmed the 10 ft height in Colorado State guidelines for tree branch trimming.
Bob said that he had been told by Richard to use 6 ft as the guide but that it would not be much trouble to do 10 ft and do the trees already done.
- Carla asked if any thinning (removal) of trees had been done and Bob said no and that their focus has been on scrub oak removal and trimming.
- The trail crew meets once a month and have only met 3 days this year. The west ridge is a lot longer than the east ridge (1,000 ft.). Bob is surprised at how slow the scrub oak is growing back. The group can clear about a mile a year on trails only – 5 years to take care of main trails.
- Carla said that she had read in her research about a chemical that couldbe used during scrub oak removal to keep them from growing back. Bob said that Danny had told him he has a chemical to put on trees within 15 minutes of cutting to kill the roots, which is used by the national park service and state forest service. Carla asked Bob to look at what we haveleft to clear and incorporate use of this chemical.
- MAR has had up to 24 volunteers on the trail crew. Bob goes up on his own prior to volunteer days and marks the area for clearing. It would take about 10 years to do the entire property (at 1,000 ft a year). The west ridge will require 400 ft more this year and 1,000 ft next year to complete the west ridge.
- Bob needs the following support from MAR:
- full meal coupons for each volunteer to use whenever they choose;
- Carla approved purchase of 5 more pruners (at $40 each);
- Bob mentioned using a “masticator”;
- ATV or gas-powered vehicle to pull chipper to where crews are working;
- Employees to operate/move chipper.
Firebreak Measuring and Marking – Dennis
Since Dennis was not available, no update
Tagging, Marking & Removal of Trees and Scrub Oak Near MAR Buildings – Chris
Chris suggested 9/16, 9/30, 10/14, 10/28 work days for volunteer schedule to be organized by building location on each date, starting at the gatehouse and moving up the property.
- Carla – from recent research it looks like we will need to obtain what is called a Defensible Space Permit with regard to replacing the deck (Colorado requirement); has to be inspected by county approved forester (Carla sent requirements to Jack and a link is provided at the end of these minutes).
- [Post meeting note: Dennis alerted the Board to the Defensive Space Permit requirement in an email date 6/25/2023]
- Chris reported improvements on fire exit road by John Z and additional work to be completed on one corner.
Signage and Marking of Evacuation Routes – Dennis
- Chris mentioned evacuation routes are already marked and does not think illuminated signs have been ordered.
- Dennis wants to put in a fire danger sign (Smoky the Bear type sign seen on others places on Deer Creek Canyon Rd) on MAR property at the entrance. After discussion regarding the value and priority of that type of sign for MAR, as well as the maintenance requirements, Carla asked if there was a motion.
- Motion from Jack: MAR will NOT put up a fire danger sign on MAR property. Jim B seconded. No discussion. Unanimously approved motion. Uriah volunteered to create fire exit signage to post in MAR public buildings.
- West exit is pedestrian only and there is concern that members/visitors will not understand that in the event of an emergency. Disabled members may not be able to get out the west exit.
- Bob reported that he had previously sent a letter to the property owner of land on the other side of west ridge where we would exit offering to cut scrub oak, with no response. To improve west exit, we may need to seek an easement to facilitate west ridge exit over the owner’s property. For east exit, will need to go up to rescue/recovery area if Murphy Gulch
Road is impassible.
- Chris suggested finding professionals that we could hire on a contract basis, as needed, to provide mitigation direction and labor for trimming/thinning (Chris to contact Rachel/Fire Marshal about posting signs soliciting contract help at the fire stations).
Wildfire Mitigation Plan
Define/Agree on What Type of Document we are writing.
- Carla said that in board emails exchanged previously, there had been disagreement regarding what type of document we needed to create. Dennis has been emphatic that a CWPP is required.
- Board members had emails discussions, with Carla maintaining that MAR does not fall under the requirement for a CWPP since we are an individual property owner.
- But MAR does need a written plan with identified priorities. This is similar to a Forest Mitigation Plan that was requested by the county in response to the original ODP.
- Carla asked Jim W to review his notes from the ODP discussions with JeffCo to determine exactly what the county asked for (what type of plan/document).
- Chris suggests we enlist Jackie (Murphy Gulch Community Ambassador) who has resources to help us to put together a plan to be approved.
- Carla agreed to contact Jackie and other fire department resources to get input and advice (update – email sent 08/21)
- How will we get additional volunteers? – Suggested near time, should solicit at Firemen Fundraiser event and annual meeting
- Agreed that BOD direction will guide decisions on priorities, team leader assignment and task management rather Staff to be team leaders to manage requirements based on BOD direction rather than information volunteered from participants.
Identify Priorities & Next Steps
- Discussed that initial mitigation efforts would focus on:
- Around buildings
- Along major MAR roads
- Along fire breaks/exits
- Need to complete the priorities and task list; Carla and Janet will do this hopefully in time for board meeting 08/24
- Carla asked about how in the latest Newsletter in the Site Holder section, we made it sound like removal of scrub oak was part of the site agreement
- Many of our site holders cannot physically perform mitigation.
- Chris stated that she did not mean to make it sound like it was part of the Site Holder agreement.
- Group agreed that there should be a plan to identify which scrub oaks around individual sites should be removed since some of them provide ground stability for the adjacent hillsides. Chris agreed that we should look at sites on a case by case basis and develop a plan which would include the “how (based on site holder capability) and when (based on location/priority for defensible space purposes).
- [After meeting note: Plan should also include consideration of costs for scrub oak removal and how that will be funded.]
Emergency/Evacuation Communication plan
- Riah suggested putting in emergency system with a broadcast siren notifying those on property of the need to evacuate.
- Chris was directed to purchase additional bull horns for evacuation communication.
- Riah will reach out to Rachel regarding a communication plan, fire marshal for our fire district.
- Caleb – we need to mark directions so everyone knows which exit to use and how to get to it.
State Forest Service Property Review
- Jim B suggested we should research the possibility of paying the forest service to review our property and provide recommendations.
- Carla asked Jim B to explore this and advise via email
- [after meeting update – no answer and no call back; Carla sent email on 8/21]
Adjournment: Motion from Janet S, 2nd by Riah; unanimously approved.
Meeting adjourned at 5:30 pm.