Durango hopes homeowners change landscapes to prevent wildfires

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DURANGO, Colo. (KRQE) – More than 54,000 acres burned in last year’s 416 Fire in Durango. While officials have been vigilant in preventing another wildfire, they want residents to do the same, but their idea is getting some pushback.

“These three right here, the little ones, they’re flammable,” said Bob Cullens pointing out pine trees. Cullen has been a Durango resident for more than 30 years and takes pride in his yard.

“These trees here, you couldn’t burn them down with a torch,” added Cullen. Last year’s 416 Fire was too close for comfort.

“We did go on standby,” said Cullen. “I didn’t feel the threat because I have the stucco house with the metal roof and I figured I could defend it.”

That’s exactly what the City of Durango and fire officials want more homeowners to do: better defend their homes from wildfires, with their landscaping.

“We have a significant amount of open space around the City of Durango and it really encircles the entire town,” said Parks and Recreation Director Cathy Metz.

Officials said they’ve thinned out trees, bushes, and plants that are easily flammable in the city’s open spaces. Now, they’re turning to the homeowners living in the city to do the same, by asking them to replace trees like pine and juniper with other trees like oak and elm.

“It’s often how you arrange plants and how you place them is more important than the actual species selection,” said Colorado State Forrest Service spokesperson Mark Loveall.

However, some people think rearranging their yards and replacing their natural trees would look odd.

“Be logical,” said Cullen. “You shouldn’t have to be told what to do to make your house fireproof.”

The city will not force people to change their landscaping, but hopes they’ll make the decision on their own.

“So all the work we could do between today and whatever day that next big fire comes will get us in a lot better shape and more prepared,” said Durango Fire Chief Hal Doughty.

The city said they will bring the idea to the city council this summer. They also hope to meet with more residents to get their input on the idea.

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