THE COLORADOAN - When Carl Solley and his wife moved into a log home in Poudre Canyon five years ago, he warned her about the inevitable.
"There is going to be a major wildfire on the Front Range," Solley told his wife. "Mother Nature is just basically taking care of business here, and you know what, we are getting in her way."
Solley isn't the only one who has recognized the inevitability of wildfire. This year, Gov. John Hickenlooper commissioned a Wildfire Insurance and Forest Health Task Force to examine how Coloradans and their government can better bolster themselves against destruction by fire.
The task force's recommendations, released last week, suggest extra taxes for residents who live in wildfire zones and propose the expensive creation of a statewide wildfire risk assessment system, which would give results to insurance companies and real estate agents.
Even though he has chosen to live in a wildfire-prone zone, Solley, like his neighbors, has mixed feelings about the recommendations, some of which would require legislative changes. Firefighters and local governments agree mitigating the impact of fire is necessary. But extra taxes and scrutiny on those who live in the red zone feels like further victimization, some Northern Colorado fire survivors say.
"We paid more for where we lived anyhow," said Dale Snyder, who lost his home to the High Park Fire last year and is planning to rebuild. "They are going to try to penalize us for living up here. Are they going to penalize people who live in hail-prone areas?"
Wildfires are not cheap. They cost money to fight and prevent, money to clean up and money to insure. But money is tight in the current economy, and firefighting has become one of the greatest expenses shouldered by the U.S. Forest Service. The agency can no longer afford to spend a third of its already insufficient wildfire budget saving homes; nor can it spend the money necessary to reverse decades of fire suppression in forests, Solley said.
Fires need to burn, and they will, environmental experts say. But it might be too late to get out of Mother Nature's way. Instead, the governor's task force wants Coloradans to be prepared for the inevitable, with more money for firefighting, safer homes and healthier forests.
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