WALSENBURG / DENVER — On Friday, September 19, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper announced $3.7 million in grants to reduce wildfire risk in communities across Colorado. The grants will be directed to 37 projects in 18 counties to treat areas where human development and forested landscapes overlap, often called the wildland-urban interface. The Spanish Peaks region of Huerfano and Las Animas Counties were recipients of grant funds; $34,650 for Black Hawk Ranch in southern Huerfano County, and an overall Huerfano County grant of $300,000. In Las Animas County, officials were notified of the award of a Colorado Parks and Wildlife grant in the amount of $328,860. Huerfano County Administrator John Galusha said this week the $300,000 in state grant funds will be used for five wildland-urban interface mitigation programs in the Cuchara area, including scheduled work in the Little Kansas area. He said the county has also applied for a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) grant for $300,000 for the same project area.
Galusha said Huerfano County should find out the fate of that grant application by late this month. The Four Mile Canyon Road fire that broke out Sunday, June 1 in the Black Hawk Ranch subdivision in southern Huerfano County was the first major wild land fire in the county in 2014. Officials speculated the 40-acre fire may have been caused by a lightening strike in the dry mountainous terrain. A number of Las Animas and Huerfano County volunteer fire departments responded to the initial mutual aid call from Huerfano County Fire Protection District’s fire department and the fire was contained and then extinguished within two days overall. No structural damage or injuries associated with the fire. The Wildfire Risk Reduction Grant Program, created under Senate Bill 269 and passed in 2013 by the Colorado General Assembly, focuses on projects that reduce the risk for damage to property, infrastructure and water supplies, and those that limit the likelihood of wildfires spreading into populated areas. Funds are directed to non-federal lands within Colorado. This is the third round of grants awarded under the program. “Colorado has endured more than its fair share of natural disasters. We continue to learn many valuable lessons, and one of them is that there is much we can do proactively to make our communities and residents safer,” said Hickenlooper. “These grants will go along way to help implement strategies and safeguards to do exactly that.” In all, this round of grants will generate more than $7.5 million worth of work on the ground, due to a 100 percent match requirement for applicants. Every project selected includes plans to use the woody material that will be generated. A portion of the awards are “capacity-building” grants, designed to provide communities with equipment that will enable them to treat hazardous fuels on state and private lands going forward. Those capacity-building grants totaled $430,695, or 11 percent of the total funding awarded in this round. The legislation caps those grants at 25 percent of the total. Two previous rounds of grants were distributed in August of 2013 and in May of this year, when more than $5.6 million was provided to 52 projects across the state. This round brings the cumulative total of grants awarded to about $9.3 million to communities, special districts and local and state government.