Sunshine Canyon Fire
An early-season wildfire burned over 70 acres and evacuated 426 people in Sunshine Canyon near Boulder, Colo. on Sunday, March 19. The blaze reminded Sunshine Canyon resident Clark Woodward, who was evacuated, of the importance of year-round fire mitigation.
As the CEO and founder of RedZone and a volunteer with the Boulder County Incident Management Team (IMT), Woodward is no stranger to wildfire awareness.
“This wildfire affected me in three ways,” Woodward said. “First, because of my obligation as a homeowner; second, because I am a volunteer with the Boulder County Incident Management Team; and third, because this is why RedZone exists.”
In the fall of 2015, after living in Boulder for more than a decade, Woodward, along with his wife and two kids, moved back to the mountains — into Sunshine Canyon. Woodward lived in canyons before and was aware of both the risk of wildfires and the importance of fire mitigation. The first thing he did following the move was join Wildfire Partners, a mitigation program for homeowners in Boulder County, Colo. (which is managed by RedZone).
A blaze started early Sunday morning — which we now know to be human-caused — in Sunshine Canyon. Woodward and his wife had little information about the fire’s proximity.
“We stood on our porch watching the fire glow red behind a hill,” Woodward said. “We tried to see how quickly the fire was growing and how it was affected by the wind.”
Last-Minute Fire Mitigation
Around 2:30 a.m., the Sheriff’s Department came to evacuate Sunshine Canyon residents. While his wife and kids went to a hotel for safety, Woodward stayed back — he had fire mitigation to do.
“I was caught off guard and a bit embarrassed,” Woodward said. “We had all these half-complete fire mitigation projects.”
Woodward had completed many of the recommendations outlined by Wildfire Partners, but several winter projects weren’t finished. He and his wife planned to complete the projects before wildfire season started, normally around mid-May. However, the Sunshine Canyon blaze caught Woodward by surprise.
“With funding from Wildfire Partners, a contractor took out about 17 trees that were close to our home, but some of the wood was stacked up near the house,” Woodward said. “So, around 3 a.m., I quickly tossed all of the wood down into a gully.”
Woodward quickly completed his emergency fire mitigation checklist. He brought porch furniture inside, swept away needles, removed flammables from windows and closed them, and packed his family’s evacuation packing list, including important documents and photos. Woodward then joined his family at the hotel.
The fire grew through the morning, but never harmed any structures or caused injuries. The winds, with gusts up to 30 mph, blew the fire back on itself and it died by Monday, March 20, when the evacuation lifted. When the Woodwards returned home, they resolved to make fire mitigation tasks an utmost priority.
“Leaving the house with incomplete mitigation made me feel exposed and vulnerable,” Woodward said. “Especially because I hadn’t finished what I had been preaching to other people. From the perspective of Wildfire Partners, I should be a shining beacon of what wildfire mitigation looks like.”
Woodward’s story emphasizes the importance of fire mitigation, especially following the unseasonably warm and dry weather occurring on the Front Range of Colorado.
Boulder County residents should contact Wildfire Partners. The organization sends a specialist to your home and creates a task list of fire mitigation requirements for your specific location. Wildfire Partners will give you a certification you can share with your insurance company once the tasks are complete. This certification indicates you have done everything possible to protect against the inevitable fire that may threaten your home.
Insurance companies: Don’t leave your customers in the danger zone. Arm yourself with wildfire intelligence from RZ Alert.