Fire mitigation key to home survival

Caleb Soptelean/Cortez Journal

Montezuma County Firewise coordinator Rebecca Samulski gestures during a tour of East Canyon on Saturday to demonstrate the effect of fire mitigation.

By Journal staff writer

To mitigate or not mitigate?

That might have been a question one could’ve asked prior to this summer’s Weber Fire, which started June 22 and burned until July 1.

But for residents who toured the East Canyon on Saturday, the question had likely already been answered.

Montezuma County’s Firewise Coordinator Rebecca Samulski facilitated the tour, which included 19 people. She received quite a bit of help from East Canyon homeowner Philip Walters. The East Canyon area is located near the top of Mancos Hill.

Walters, who serves as a Firewise ambassador for his neighborhood, narrated the tour.

Several stops were planned in the Elk Stream and Elk Spring subdivisions where attendees could see the effect of fire mitigation around homes.

Walters stressed that one shouldn’t just protect the home, but expand the mitigation area to protect trees around the home too.

Protecting one’s home by removing brush, trees and other incendiary material located close to the home is good. However, by removing brush from underneath trees farther out and doing some tree thinning, the remaining trees can likely be saved during a fire, Samulski said. Firefighters can start any necessary backburns outside of the extended mitigation area, she noted.

No homes were lost during the Weber Fire, but quite a bit of the vegetation was burned in both the East and West canyons, including piņon juniper, gambel oak and ponderosa pine. The cost of the Weber Fire was estimated at more than $3.2 million.

For more information on the Firewise program or to become an ambassador, call Samulski at 564-4007 or go online at

La Plata County residents can call La Plata County Coordinator Pam Wilson at 385-8909.

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