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Wildfire mitigation: How often is it done and how much is needed in Pikes Peak region?

EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (KRDO) -- When it comes to wildfire mitigation -- the process of removing materials from around your property that could fuel a fire -- people often don't do it until they see a fire nearby or on a hot, dry day when high fire danger arrives.

"I'd say we do it maybe 50% of the time, and that's just a high estimate," Robert Ayotte, a wildland supervisor with the El Paso County Sheriff's Office, said Wednesday.

According to experts, we should be thinking about or conducting wildfire mitigation all year long. But removing dead trees and brush from around your home or property can be an exhausting or expensive job, depending on whether you do it yourself or hire someone to do it for you.

Mace Crowe, a Colorado Springs homeowner, mitigated not only his property but also a patch of open space next door -- a job that he said took several six-hour days.

"My homeowners' association advises us to mitigate once a year," he said. "I want to protect my property and contribute to the community. The hardest part is the initial mitigation. Once you've done that, you only have to maintain and that doesn't take much effort."

The Colorado Springs Fire Department has a program called Firewise, in which firefighters will come to your home, evaluate your fire risk and remove excess fire fuels after you've gathered them and placed them on curbs or sidewalks.

"They do that multiple times a day," said Brett Lacey, fire marshal for Colorado Springs. "So the number of visits is in the hundreds per month that we're going up there, consulting with homeowners, and revisiting.  And that's been going on for 20 years."

El Paso County thins forests and removes potential fire fuels at three of its parks in the Black Forest area.

"We'd like to do more, but we do the best we can," Ayotte said. "At least we're burning more in the winter as weather allows."

Some forest managers said now is a good time to mitigate: Because the weather has been so dry, there's less vegetation to deal with, and an early frost last fall -- along with a late frost this spring -- killed many trees that need to be removed.

For more information on the Firewise program in Colorado Springs, visit: https://coloradosprings.gov/fire-department/page/firewise-usa-colorado-springs.

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Scott Harrison

Scott is a reporter for KRDO. Learn more about Scott here.