Rapid City Seeks Input on Proposed Wildland Fire Ordinance

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By Kirsten Swanson

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Updated: Fri, 28 Feb 2014 01:41:28 MST

The City of Rapid City is seeking public input on a proposed ordinance dealing with the Wildland Urban Interface, an area where dense vegetation meets residential property.

Proponents say the requirements would help protect neighborhoods and homes set back in the hills and could save hundreds of acres from going up in flames.

"You know, a lot of people say they haven’t seen a fire in 25 years and that just tells me we're due for one," said Lieutenant Tim Weaver of the Rapid City Fire Department.

And when a wildfire starts, it burns. Take for example the Waldo Canyon Fire in Colorado Springs. Homes were destroyed within a matter of days.

Many of those homes were built in Wildland Urban Interface, right in the middle of heavy tree cover.

"Rapid City has a very large number of homes that are in a high hazard areas and they're in danger of being destroyed by a wildfire," Weaver said.

To protect those neighborhoods, Rapid City will consider an ordinance to help houses resist catching fire.

"That ordinance is dealing with exterior building materials, the flammability of those materials, and the vegetation on the property surrounding the structure and going out a certain distance," Weaver said.

Lieutenant Weaver knows just how high the risk is for homes in the urban zone.

A map drawn up in the ordinance draft shows in red those high risk areas.

During one of three public meetings, Weaver fielded questions, many having to do with enforcement of the ordinance.

If passed, it would not be retroactive. However, if a building permit request came through for a roof, the owner would have to build to new guidelines.

"We don't want that roof being replaced with a brand-new combustible roof, we want it replaced with a roof that's fire resistant and that's really the intent of this," Weaver said.

The ordinance would also take a pro-active approach on thinning hazardous fuels from properties.

"You can't control how much rain's going to come out of the sky, you can't control how hard the wind's going to blow,” Weaver said. “You can control how much fuel the fire has to burn so you can directly affect how severe the fire behavior is on your property and around your structure or in your community."

If you live in one of these high risk areas, the City of Rapid City wants your input on this proposed ordinance.

There will be two more meetings on March 18 and March 25. Both start at 6 p.m. and are held in the Community Room at the City/School Administration Center at 300 6th Street in Rapid City.

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