Earlier today the President signed a Major Disaster Declaration for El Paso and Larimer counties in Colorado.
During his afternoon visit (seen above) to the fire ravaged western edge of Colorado Springs, the President remarked:
In the meantime, some lessons are being learned about how we can mitigate some of these fires in the future, and I know that the Mayor and Governor, and other local officials are already in those conversations. It means that hopefully, out of this tragedy, some long-term planning occurs, and it may be that we can curb some of the damage that happens the next time, even though you obviously can’t fully control fires that are starting up in these mountains.
Some of these mitigation lessons had already been “learned” but not applied. This is a recurring issue in risk-readiness. We know more than we choose to recognize or implement. A few examples of extant lessons:
Development at the wildland–urban interface and the mitigation of forest-fire risk (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences) 2007
Specific to Colorado Springs:
Wildfire Risk and the Housing Market (2007) Fascinating findings. The Firewise website mentioned in the study is available at http://csfd.springsgov.com/ Basically, the Colorado Springs Fire Department provides parcel-by-parcel risk ratings for all houses in the wildland urban interface through a website. One finding:
… some home buyers prefer a densely wooded lot or a house on a ridge. The results… suggest that pre-Web site, these positive amenity values outweighed the negative effect of wildfire risk on housing price… However post-Web site, the coefficients on the overall risk rating variables were no longer significant. This result suggests that post Web site, the positive amenity effects were offset by the increased wildfire risk associated with such parcels.
For even more please see a whole collection of prior findings from the USDA Pacific Northwest Research Station.
Lots of implications for recovery planning, future mitigation, and risk-awareness.